A New Song Collection and Hymnal is Coming!

Mennonites sing to express their faith. That’s what we said in our first hymnal planning session last week in the Twin Cities.

Representatives of Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada and MennoMedia spent a day in some intensive, but very good meetings, planning a new hymnal for our churches. This was a follow-up on some decisions reached last fall, where the two denominations asked MennoMedia to take the lead in planning and producing a new song collection.

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While this first meeting had just four of us—Amy Gingerich and myself from MennoMedia and Dave Bergen and Terry Shue from Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA, we agreed that our next meeting will include one more each from our denominations, in particular persons with expertise in music and worship. This group will not actually produce a song collection or hymnal; rather we are just a “steering committee” who will hire and select the team that will produce the final product. Besides one full time project director and some other, part-time staff, there will be a committee of 10-12 persons from across the church, hopefully representing the broad diversity of our denominations and especially gifted in music, poetry and worship.

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This sign in the children’s Sunday School classroom at Faith Mennonite seemed very appropriate for us as we go forward!

One important bit of work for us was the statement of some values that we hope this process and final product will express:

  • Collaboration and cooperation.
  • Openness and transparency.
  • Leanness and responsiveness—meeting perhaps more intensively, over a shorter time period.
  • Lots of communication, since people want to know what’s happening. Good marketing will be included in this.
  • An excellent product that will help form faith for a new generation.

Lots of questions remain unanswered:

  • Who will be on the committee?
  • How many new songs versus old ones?
  • What kinds of supplementary products will be included (such as audio and visuals)?
  • Will “Praise God From Whom” be #606 again?

We look forward to the next five years as we see this product take shape and hope and pray for a resource that helps preserve and treasure a faith tradition in music.

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~Russ Eanes
Executive Director, MennoMedia

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Read the complete news release on the project sent out this week.

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WANT TO STAY IN THE KNOW? Sign up for quarterly (approximately) email news releases/updates on the song collection project by sending your email to this address: HymnalInfo@MennoMedia.org.

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Check out existing and vintage hymnals and songbooks we still sell!

Shine On: Middle School Math Teacher Shares Appreciation for Nourishing Lessons with No-Nonsense Prep

Guest blog by Esther Kratzer Koontz,

MennoMedia’s new Shine Sunday school curriculum for children, [published in partnership with Brethren Press] is praiseworthy: easy to plan, easy to teach and committed to deep and simple truths that stick with me all week long.

A student’s welcome sign from Esther Kratzer Koontz’s class at First Mennonite Church of Hutchinson, Kan.

I commute 45 minutes to church, which gives me plenty of time to plan the lesson on the way. As long as I’ve packed the snack, I can usually scavenge up the rest of the ingredients for a nourishing and enjoyable lesson at the church.

This week, I needed a backpack — but I found that on the floor of our minivan. I was supposed to have packed the backpack with a sampling of “valuables” to represent the weight of possessions in our lives, but my first- and second-grade students sure had fun helping me fill the backpack with wooden blocks of various sizes, each representing something a “rich man” might own.

“Gold, a mansion, a hot tub!”

We found our “limbo stick” in the broom closet. A needle? The sewing ladies happily showed us where those are kept.

Then we read each story right out of the new Shine On Bible. Word for word.

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While I read slowly, we acted out the story with the olive wood figures in our story people box. Jesus changes shape every week. Some weeks he’s tall and dark. Other weeks he’s light and stout with a knot on his back. The kids are never a bit surprised.

My scarf of the day quickly turned into the river where Jesus was baptized, the road where Jesus and his friends walk, or the sea where Jesus pulled up in his boat made of, you guessed it, a wooden block.

My busiest students loved building Peter’s mother’s house or the ship where Jesus stands to calm the winds.

What do you wonder?

After the story, we closed our eyes and asked the curriculum’s “wondering” questions. You don’t raise your hand to answer the questions. You just think about the story and wonder.

I wondered if the man used any of his money to help others. (The Bible doesn’t tell us.) I wondered how the things we own can make it hard to follow Jesus. Imagine hearing someone tell you to sell everything you own. Jesus asked the man to give what he owned to the poor. I wondered what God wants me to do.

What deep ideas — yet so simple for our little ones to grasp when they enter through the context of the story.

First shall be last

Each lesson includes simple movement games, a perfect transition as we left the worship center to head back to the table.

While we played the limbo game weighed down by the backpack full of block possessions, my daughter asked, “What does it really mean for the first to be last? What if someone’s been waiting for a long time, and they just got to the front of the line? Will they be last again?”

For snack, we lined up for a special treat, and I surprised them by giving the child at the back her treat first.

The child who had hurried to the front was my daughter. She cried about it later in the car, not because she got her snack last but because she was worried that she might end up last in God’s kingdom. Plus, she was embarrassed.

My husband told me, “Your line illustration may have been too literal.”

We told our daughter, “Jesus is simply looking out for the ones who everyone else has forgotten or pushed to the back. In God’s kingdom, it’s not about getting in line. Remember Jesus’ open arms last week as he let the children come.”

A blessing for each

Toward the end of each class, we eat our snack, work on optional activities in the student leaflets, chat or listen to music from the Shine CD. The kids sing really loud and dance whenever “Siyuhumba” comes on.

Each lesson includes a blessing to finish with, and we read it, word for word. I have found I can’t improve on the thoughtfulness of what the authors prepared.

On the last week of the quarter, the teacher’s guide suggested I bless each child for his or her special gifts to the class. I got a bit teary as I went around the table thanking each child individually: for coming early to prepare the room, for welcoming newcomers, for running the CD player, for asking good questions, for helping me build props for the Bible stories.

Last week some of the children created signs welcoming others to our class to mirror Jesus’ welcoming the children. One girl’s sign said, “Come in! This is the best class ever.”

I echo her sentiment, and add: this is the best Sunday school curriculum ever. It’s easy to teach, and the lessons pierce the heart with their truth and depth. The children respond to the stories and activities with joy and amazing perception, showing me what it must be like to enter the kingdom of God like a child.

Esther Kratzer Koontz teaches Sunday school at First Mennonite Church in Hutchinson, Kan. This article appeared originally in Mennonite World Review. Used by permission.

Esther also blogs at Through Grass and Sage and wrote previously about her first Sunday using Shine On. 

 

Donated Dollars at Work by Steve Carpenter

This picture, although out of focus, captures the joy of a young Hispanic girl receiving her very own copy of Resplandece, a Spanish language children’s story Bible.

A child from Alpha y Omega receives a copy of  Resplandece

A child from Alpha y Omega receives a copy of Resplandece. Photo by Luke Schrock Hurst

This beautiful, full color book was developed by MennoMedia partnering with Brethren Press for use with the new Anabaptist Sunday school curriculum Shine. The children’s Bible storybook is also useful as a standalone piece for parents and grandparents who want to read Bible stories to their elementary aged children and grandchildren.

Resplandece - Children's Bible storybook

Resplandece – Children’s Bible storybook

However, the Shine Sunday school materials, from which Resplandece was derived, would not have been possible without the financial support we received from many churches and individuals. Once Shine On, the English version of the children’s Bible storybook, was available, a grant from the Schowalter Foundation of Kansas paid for its translation from English into Spanish. Shine On in English became Resplandece in Spanish. Yet, even that may not have been enough for this young girl, who is a part of the Iglesia de Evangelico Completo Alpha y Omega congregation in Gaithersburg, MD to receive her personal copy.

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Justiniano Cruz, pastor of Alpha y Omega. Photo by Luke Schrock Hurst.

Thanks to a $2,000 grant from of the Mission Endowment Fund of Virginia, we were able to purchase 100 copies of Resplandece for distribution to the Spanish speaking Mennonite churches of Virginia Mennonite Conference (VMC). I went through VMC’s District Ministers to distribute these books to congregations within their area of responsibility. Alpha Y Omega, a congregation in Gaithersburg, received 24 copies of Resplandece, enough for one for each family with elementary-aged children.

Alpha y Omega girls' liturgical dance troupe.

Alpha y Omega girls’ liturgical dance troupe. Photo by Luke Schrock Hurst.

Luke Schrock Hurst, District Minister for Potomac District, delivered the children’s story Bibles and was present on a Sunday morning when they were given to the children. Luke, who speaks Spanish fluently, served with MCC in Central America and the Philippines. Potomac District is the most diverse cluster of churches in VMC with messages preached in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Korean every week.

Luke Shcrock Hurst, Potomac District Minister

Luke Shcrock Hurst, Potomac District Minister

The other VMC churches which received copies of Resplandece purchased with money granted by the Mission Endowment Fund grant are all located in Harrisonburg. They are: Harrisonburg Mennonite Church who will deliver the 30 books they received to a sister church in Nicaragua, Iglesia Discipular Anabaptista, Iglesia Enciende una Luz, Manantial de Vida, and Immanuel Mennonite Church.

Another individual MennoMedia donor and a family foundation will make it possible for MennoMedia to give away some more copies of Resplandece to native Spanish speakers who attend Mennonite World Conference, July 21-26, in Harrisburg, PA this summer.

The distribution of free copies of Resplandece is but one example of how MennoMedia is using financial gifts entrusted to our care.

The world needs the fresh, alternative perspective offered by Mennonites and Anabaptists. Primarily through books and Christian formation series like Shine and VBS, but also through DVDs and on the web, MennoMedia’s products not only shape the Mennonite Church in the US and Canada, they influence those seeking a deeper, more holistic faith. MennoMedia faitfully projects Anabaptist thought into the marketplace of ideas.

However, that marketplace is crowded, highly competitive and rapidly changing. MennoMedia needs your support to accomplish its mission. Many of the products we produce, although crucial, are not profitable. We strive to generate 90% of our operating income through sales of our products. We rely on individuals, churches and foundations to make up the difference by supporting this ministry financially.

A gift to MennoMedia helps ensure the church receives the resources it needs from a distinctly Anabaptist perspective at an affordable price. It also helps extend Anabaptist thought into the broader culture, thus drawing disciples to Jesus and his way of peace.
Your gift helps sustain our ministry of publishing and proclaiming words which are sorely needed, not only by the church but, by the world.

To make an on-line contribution to MennoMedia click HERE.

If you can’t contribute now, you can share in other ways–such as sharing this “good news” blog post with your friends online so more will see it and share it. Thank you for the many ways you help carry out this mission!

Blessings in your work, worship and witness,

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter, Director of Development and Church Relations