Twelve selected for song committee

June 16, 2016
News release

Twelve selected for song committee
Leadership team for song collection project also named

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—Six women and six men from across North America have been chosen to serve on the committee for the new song collection for Mennonite churches planned for release in 2020.

The committee selections were announced by Bradley Kauffman, recently named project director for the collection, and Amy Gingerich, editorial director for MennoMedia, the agency managing the project on behalf of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

The first meeting of the committee is planned for September 2016 in Harrisonburg.

The steering committee received more than 60 applications for the positions of project director, project assistant, music editor, text editor, worship resources editor, and committee member. “All of the applicants were well-qualified,” noted Gingerich. “We could have put together at least three excellent committees from the candidates.”

The editorial assignments include:

Adam Tice, text editor; Tice has written hymn texts for more than two hundred published songs and is a music composition graduate of Goshen College with a minor in Bible and religion. Originally from Pennsylvania, he also served a pastorate near Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Bergey, music editor; Bergey is a doctor of music arts (DMA) candidate at James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Va.) in orchestral conducting. He is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University majoring in church music. Originally from Franconia Conference, he is part of The Table, a Virginia Mennonite Conference congregation.

Sarah Kathleen Johnson, worship resources editor; Johnson is currently a PhD student in liturgical studies at Notre Dame University (South Bend, Ind.). She formerly pastored in Ottawa and is a graduate of Conrad Grebel University College.

The remainder of the committee, alphabetically by last name, include:

  • Darryl Neustaedter Barg, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Neustaedter Barg works for Mennonite Church Manitoba with wide experience in worship music and recording/videography. He is a member of Douglas Mennonite Church in Winnipeg.
  • Paul Dueck, Cartier, Manitoba; originally from Ontario, Dueck is a recently retired music educator and past graduate of Canadian Mennonite University who taught at Swift Current Bible School; he also pastored a congregation in Windsor.
  • Mike Erb, New Hamburg, Ontario; Erb is music director at Hillcrest Mennonite Church and is actively involved in Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Mennofolk, and a recording studio; Erb also served at Erb Street Mennonite Church.
  • Katie Graber, Columbus, Ohio; Graber is a graduate of Goshen College with a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Wisconsin. Originally from Iowa, she teaches piano and music at two universities, and is part of Columbus (Ohio) Mennonite Church.
  • Emily Grimes, Salem, Oregon; Grimes grew up attending Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship in Goshen and is a graduate of Goshen College in music education. She is the music director at Western Mennonite School in Oregon and attends Salem Mennonite Church.
  • Tom Harder, Wichita, Kansas; Harder is pastor at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita with a DMA in guitar performance and an MDiv from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, or AMBS).
  • SaeJin Lee, Elkhart, Indiana; Lee is a graduate of Goshen College, and currently studying at AMBS with a minor in music in worship; she is part of the Hively Avenue congregation and worked with music at the 2015 Mennonite World Conference.
  • Anneli Loepp Thiessen, Winnipeg; Loepp Thiessen is originally from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, and just finished a third year of studies in piano and worship at Canadian Mennonite University; she is part of The Gathering Church.
  • Cynthia Neufeld Smith, Topeka, Kansas; Neufeld Smith has a BA from Bluffton University, an MDiv from AMBS, and a DMA, all focused on worship and music. She and her husband, Roger, are copastors of Southern Hills Mennonite Church in Kansas.

The steering committee responsible for the work of the music committee consists of Russ Eanes and Amy Gingerich from MennoMedia; Terry Shue and Nicole Francisco Bailey representing Mennonite Church USA; and Karen Martens Zimmerly and Irma Fast Dueck representing Mennonite Church Canada.

Music committee members were selected partially on the basis of their compatibility with the guiding principles for the project, including an Anabaptist missional lens; a forward-looking vision for music in congregational life; an ability to work collaboratively; and a history of engaging a diversity of musical idioms.

Bradley Kauffman added that the committee will be engaging additional consultants to help ensure that the collection addresses the needs of the twenty first century church.

MennoMedia Staff

For more information on this press release:
Melodie Davis
News manager

Press Release: The Gospel Next Door by Marty Troyer, plus author interview

June 8, 2016

Finding God at Work in the City
Herald Press releases The Gospel Next Door by Marty Troyer9781513800387

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—God is at work and the gospel is alive in our cities, towns, and communities. This is the message Marty Troyer wants to share in his new book, The Gospel Next Door, released by Herald Press.

As a pastor in Houston, Texas, Troyer has found the gospel to be thriving in the city. “People are sharing Jesus, pursuing shalom in the city,” he said in an interview. The old division of evangelism and social justice breaks down as Christians combine these in life-giving ways, he said.

In addition to pastoring Houston Mennonite Church, Troyer writes a blog hosted by the Houston Chronicle. Titled The Peace Pastor, it emphasizes a gospel-centered Jesus ethic.

In The Gospel Next Door, Troyer writes about the gospel message through the lenses of following Jesus, making peace, and overcoming injustice. “Jesus is the center, and it ripples out from there,” he said.

Finding God’s work in the world starts with spiritual tools, Troyer points out. It is rooted in Scripture and good worship. “A good hymnbook is one of the greatest tools for justice we have,” he noted.

As a church reaches out in its community, it finds others working for God’s kingdom. “This is a mosaic of stories,” Troyer said. “We Mennonites don’t have a corner on the God of peace. So many people share those values and that passion.”

MartyTroyerIn his new book, Troyer recounts stories of Houstonians whose faith in Jesus drives their work: against violence in their neighborhoods, for Habitat for Humanity, against human trafficking. “The church is the one staring into the darkness and working for change,” he said.

“My pen pal Terrence went into prison at age 12 and is now 38 and still behind bars,” said Troyer. “In Houston prison ministries and restorative justice, the church is leading the way.” Christian ministries are addressing overcrowded prisons, mass incarceration, and racism.

Partnering and praying with different Christians clarifies our language about the gospel, Troyer believes. “Personal faith has come alive as we opened our doors and eyes to the rest of the church,” he said.

Troyer hopes readers will discover broader church partnership. “The world is hungry for God. They don’t see it in the church regularly, so they are excited about it.” He believes churches need to stop working alone and engage publicly, talking with and listening to more people.

Troyer makes the point that The Gospel Next Door is not about one pastor and one church. “We are one piece of the mosaic,” he said. His book starts to put together the mosaic of the gospel happening in Houston, Texas—one example of God’s kingdom in action.

Margot Starbuck, award-winning author and speaker, says of The Gospel Next Door, “The world God loves, the one Jesus died for, is right under your nose, and you won’t see it the same way after reading this book.”

Dwight Friesen, coauthor of The New Parish and Routes and Radishes, and author of Thy Kingdom Connected, writes, “Troyer paints a picture of what loving God as loving your neighbor can actually look like in the everyday stuff of life—part of a large and growing movement of Christians rediscovering the practices of ‘local church.’”

The Gospel Next Door is available for $15.99 USD/$19.19 CAD from MennoMedia at 800-245-7894 or, as well as at bookstores.

–Ardell Stauffer
High-resolution photos available.

For more information on this press release:
Melodie Davis
News manager

Author Interview—Marty Troyer, The Gospel Next Door

Marty Troyer is the author of The Gospel Next Door, which has just been released by Herald Press. Troyer is the pastor of Houston Mennonite Church in Houston, Texas. His blog, The Peace Pastor, has been hosted by the Houston Chronicle for five years.

Tell me about your title: The Gospel Next Door. What’s different about the “gospel next door” from the gospel anywhere?

That idea is really central to the book. We’re not taking something where it isn’t. The gospel is already alive next door.

There are people in our cities living for the gospel whom we’re not aware of. We’re not alone. Maybe particularly as Mennonites, we don’t have a corner on the God of peace—so many people share those values and that passion. This means something is already happening that I’m invited to.

Are you addressing the church in the city primarily?

Yes and no. I focus on one city. I hope people will see this in their own context. My examples are widely applicable in other places. I’m really passionate about being local—not just for an urban audience, but out of an urban context. I’m telling stories about a particular place as illustration.

Your book sections talk about the gifts of Jesus, of peace, and of restoring justice. What is significant about those gifts in a community?

The gospel helps us to see more clearly. I’m fleshing that out in those three directions. The book is centrally about Jesus. To understand Jesus, we have to understand shalom and justice. I love Paul’s language: that God is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine. Jesus is the center and it ripples out from there.

In Houston, I see the church at work, stories of people sharing Jesus, pursuing shalom in the city. That’s one of the real stories in the missional movement, that ministry is kingdom work and for the common good, rather than the old dichotomy of evangelism or social justice. Here people are combining those in a really life-giving way.

How do you see that happening in Houston?

I tell a mosaic of stories, about groups, individuals, and families who are not part of my church—people who because of faith in Jesus have come to a stand of nonviolence; who are training high school youth to have different options from the military; who live in dangerous or impoverished neighborhoods; who because of faith are working against violence. These are not just fantastic stories, they are game changers for the church.

The book is also about justice, which includes everything from a church working with Habitat for Humanity to a local organization called Bridges for Life that works between victims and offenders. I think of my pen pal Terrence, who went into prison at age 12 and is now 38 and still behind bars. In Houston prison and restorative justice ministries, the church is leading the way. We have overcrowded prisons, mass incarceration, and at every point along the way Christian ministries are addressing the criminal justice system. It’s impressive what the church is doing.

The same for human trafficking. Of the worst six cities in the U.S. for human trafficking, Houston is number one. Julie Waters first heard about human trafficking in church, and she pursued a law degree to create a ministry—and we must put this in the context of multiple ministries and years-long work. The church is the one staring into the darkness and working for change.

When you see this mosaic together, you see there is a church in Houston, and it’s the whole “big C” Church.

What are ways for churches to connect into the larger church?

There is so much happening. There are few ministries that need to be created by churches or small groups. Almost always, there’s another organization to partner with or to join. Instead of saying, “Here’s a problem, we need to create a ministry,” say, “Here’s a problem, maybe the gospel helps us to see it. Check it out, people have built something already to address this.” We need to help energize what’s already happening.

We then can respond differently, not with guilt or burnout. When you are able to say that the gospel is already working, people come alive and can do more by referring them to the ministry that is already there.

You pastor a church in Houston. How has that shaped your understanding of the gospel message in our home communities?

It has shaped my understanding of the gospel in different ways.

One is that in opening ourselves to the outside world, we open to the diversity of Christian streams and spirituality. Richard Foster has written about the six streams of Christianity. My church and maybe many Mennonites are in one of those streams. As we partner with other people, as we sit down and pray with people from different Christian streams, it opens our eyes. It clarifies our language about the gospel. It’s a really beautiful thing—personal faith has come alive as we open our doors and eyes to the rest of the church.

We have transformed as a church by stopping believing the myth that we are the only ones in Houston who care about peace. We are not the only pacifist church, or the only ones opposing the death penalty. We partner with groups who express that difference. We are deeply energized by the fact that we are not alone in Houston.

What tools can we use to find the work of God happening in our communities?

My chapters in the book help provide those tools. Some are spiritual tools—not just trying to Google things on the computer. To see what God is doing in our context, we must be rooted in Scripture and worship. A good hymnbook is one of the greatest tools for justice we have. Then we let that ripple out into our communities. How is God the God of Exodus and of Revelation today?

We need to look from the bottom up, not the top down. We need to look at race. For faithfulness to flourish, we have to take seriously immigrants, refugees, and minority communities. Reading the Bible with the lens of Black Lives Matter. There are two different Houstons. One is white middle-class. But you also must see Houston through the Fifth Ward or through pastors in black churches. You have to see it through the eyes of the incarcerated.

We also need to stop trying to do it alone. Stop trying to do it in small groups, or even within one church. Talk to more people. We need to be listening and doing communal things.

We Mennonites don’t have to recreate the wheel; we can go back to those things that were brilliant. For example, Mennonite Central Committee, which was built on deep relationships, Mennonite Disaster Service, Ten Thousand Villages, and Christian Peacemaker Teams. These are effective communal organizations, not just birthed by one person—they are deeply communal things.

You have a blog, The Peace Pastor, hosted by the Houston Chronicle. How has that been part of your church’s outreach?

I’m a public theologian. A key reason for the book is not just my work but my congregation—we are putting ourselves out there in a public way. This reaching out has formed the book, how we discovered partnership and the people we are connected to now. Through the blog, I became aware that there’s a deep hunger in the world for the Anabaptist Christian way of being. The world is hungry for God; they don’t see it in the church on a regular basis, so they are excited about it. There are lots of Anabaptist-minded people. It opens doors to relationship.

Our church is one story among many. We are one among maybe 12 churches and 20 organizations and 15 families that I write about. We are one piece of the mosaic.

My goal is really to showcase the best in this community. What’s really central is that grace is the hinge between the inner life of faith and the outer life of love. It is a personal grace-filled relationship, but also outward.

Ardell Stauffer, freelance writer and editor, interviewed author Marty Troyer.

Adult Bible Study announces new study cycle (Press release in English and Spanish)

News release–English; see below for the release in Spanish.

June 8, 2016

Adult Bible Study announces new study cycle
Anabaptist Bible study curriculum for today’s church

AB8004HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—Adult Bible Study (ABS), MennoMedia’s premier faith formation curriculum for adults, begins a new six-year cycle this fall of studying the whole Bible.

The outlines for weekly lessons, based on eight biblical themes, were developed by the Committee on the Uniform Series, an ecumenical group of Christian educators and publishers in which MennoMedia participates. Anabaptist pastors, teachers, and lay leaders in Canada and the United States write the study materials. ABS Online offers “just in time” commentary that relates the Bible studies to current events in the church and in the world. Estudios Bíblicos para Adultos, a Spanish-language version of ABS, is also available.

“The themes provide a helpful way to see connections between the Old and New Testaments,” commented James E. Horsch, ABS editor emeritus. “We are particularly excited about a New Testament unit featuring women who were called to minister.” Horsch served as chair of the Committee on the Uniform Series during the development of the 2016–22 study cycle.

ABS offers meaty, relevant, Anabaptist commentary that invites spiritual growth and ABS-iconSmaller

practice,” said editor Sharon Williams. “ABS is great for congregations looking for Sunday school or Bible study curriculum that draws people into God’s Word and results in a closer walk with Jesus in the world.”

More information about ABS and EBA is available at or 1-800-245-7894. Individual and bulk subscriptions are available.

MennoMedia Staff

For more information:
Melodie Davis
News manager

Boletín informativo

08 de junio del 2016

Estudios Bíblicos para Adultos anuncia nuevo ciclo de estudio
Currículo de estudios bíblicos anabautistas para la iglesia de hoy

Basic CMYK

HARRISONBURG, Virginia, y KITCHENER, Ontario— Estudios Bíblicos para Adultos (EBA), el currículo principal de MennoMedia para la formación de la fe de adultos, inicia en otoño un nuevo ciclo de seis años para estudiar toda la Biblia.

Las líneas generales de las lecciones semanales, basadas en ocho temas bíblicos, fueron desarrolladas por el Comité sobre las Series Uniformes, un grupo ecuménico de educadores y editoriales cristianos del que MennoMedia participa. Pastores, maestros y líderes laicos anabautistas de Canadá y EE. UU. escriben los materiales de estudio. Adult Bible Study (ABS), la versión en inglés de EBA, también está disponible.

“Los temas brindan una forma práctica de ver conexiones entre el Antiguo y el Nuevo Testamento”, comentó James E. Horsch, editor emérito de ABS. “Nos entusiasma de modo particular una nueva unidad de Nuevo Testamento sobre mujeres que recibieron el llamado a ministrar”. Horsch se desempeñó como presidente del Comité sobre las Series Uniformes durante el desarrollo del ciclo de estudio 2016-22.

EBA ofrece un comentario anabautista sustancioso y pertinente que invita al crecimiento espiritual y la práctica”, dijo la editora Sharon Williams. “EBA es fantástico para aquellas congregaciones que buscan un currículo de escuela dominical o de estudios bíblicos que involucre a la gente con la palabra de Dios y que produzca como resultado un andar más íntimo con Jesús en el mundo”.

Más información sobre EBA y ABS disponible en o llamando al 1-800-245-7894. Hay guías de EBA para el alumno y el maestro para descargar e imprimir.

Personal de MennoMedia
para más información
Melodie Davis
Gerente de prensa