Worship and Song Collection Project Fund-raising Update by Steve Carpenter

MennoMedia, on behalf of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA, is working to create a new Mennonite hymnal by 2020. I have been tasked with raising more than $600,000 to pay for the work of a 13-person hymnal committee, a full-time project director, a half-time administrative assistant and other support staff and services. We’re off to a good start.

Bradley Kauffman began work as the Project Director in July 2016 and later that summer 13 others were appointed to serve with him on the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee.

This committee includes persons from both Canada and the US.

The committee has met several times, most recently at Camp Friedenswald in Cassopolis, Michigan, in early September. (Read a recent report on their work here.) The committee has enjoyed frequent contact and mentorship from Mary Oyer, Rebecca Slough, Kenneth Nafziger, Marilyn Houser Hamm, Marlene Kropf and other veterans of previous hymnal projects beyond the Mennonite Church.

As I meet with individuals, inviting them to support this endeavor financially, I am sometimes asked “Why do we need a new hymnal?” In short, refreshing a worship and song collection once a generation is one of the cycles of a forward-looking church. Hymnals are of a generational moment. They mark a particular threshold showing where the church has been and where the spirit of God may be leading. They hold comfort and nostalgia while leaning earnestly to challenge and prophetic action. As the urgencies of church life and identity shift from generation to generation, worship rhythms respond to this Spirit-movement.

The Mennonite Hymnal (red) was published in 1969.

 

 

 

 

The blue Hymnal: A Worship Book (HWB) was released in 1992.

That is a span of 23 years between the red and blue hymnals, both of which were developed before the digital age. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Hymnal: A Worship Book and it will be another three years until a new hymnal is available. A new generation of spirit-led, prophetic church music has been written in the last quarter century. The way the church uses music is also changing. Available electronic formats will help the new collection meet the needs of twenty-first century worshipers. Many of our faith communities are expressing eager anticipation of this forthcoming resource.

The new hymnal will retain durable material from HWB and the two supplements, Sing the Journey (2005) and Sing the Story (2007), while introducing new music and worship resources geared for the 21st century church.

Those who give a gift of at least $500 toward this project, between now and 2019, will have 40 characters (including spaces) in the back of the hymnal to honor a loved one, include a snippet from a hymn or a favorite verse of Scripture. Persons may also include their own names or give anonymously. To date we have raised nearly $370,000 in gifts and faith promises or 61% of the $606,000 goal. Larger gifts entitle the giver to 80 characters. To learn more about giving to support this important project, visit HymnalProject606.com or email me at SteveC@mennomedia.org.

The Mennonite Worship and Song Committee, going by the name Resonate Team, has invited congregations to hold a Great Day of Singing on Sunday October 22. Click here to view downloadable music and worship resources available for your congregation to plan worship for that day.

Thank you for your interest in this project. The Mennonite church has a rich tradition of robust congregational singing. A gift to Project 606 will help offer this legacy to the next generation.

Blessings in your work, worship and witness,

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development and Church Relations.

Welcome Neighbor Sign Inspires Thousands

By Steve Carpenter

Have you seen the “Welcome Your Neighbor” sign with its three bright colors in three languages?

There are now more than 100,000 signs in yards and storefronts across the U.S. and Canada. Its message of welcome and hospitality, started by Mennonites in Harrisonburg, VA, has been inspiring thousands. It showed up on HuffPost, NPR, Relevant Magazine, and scores of local news outlets. There was even a news outlet in Spain reporting on the sign’s popularity.

 A United Church of Christ congregation in Lancaster, PA celebrated Pentecost by transformed the image of the signs into doves representing the Holy Spirit’s descent.

  When the Democratic and Republican primaries were just beginning in the summer of 2016, my small congregation, Immanuel Mennonite Church (IMC) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, decided to put up a sign proclaiming our shared value of welcoming foreigners. The wording for the sign came from our pastor Matthew Bucher and it was hand painted by another member of the congregation, Melissa Howard.

IMC’s neighbors speak many languages, but primarily English, Spanish and Arabic. Matthew said, “I hope that the sign is a marker to the community. And, I hope that folks leaving IMC after a service are reminded of who we are to be.”

Mennonites, as followers of Jesus, have traditionally refused to take up arms in self-defense or in national defense. Some have also chosen not to vote, deciding rather to remain separate from the political process. During the 2016 election Pastor Matthew Bucher at IMC, encouraged those in his faith community to put out a “We are glad you’re our neighbor” sign rather than a politically partisan sign. My wife and I put one in our front yard in August, 2016 and its still there.


While some in the U.S. government continue to press to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, fear of immigrants continues. Yet, others refuse to give in to fear but rather reach out in love. Matthew 25:35 reminds us that when we welcome others our heavenly Father will reward us. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The sign is now available in 16 different language combinations. All are free to down-load and can be printed locally without infringing on any copyrights. You can also buy these signs and other “Welcome Your Neighbor” products online. Click here to link to the “Welcome Neighbors” site affiliated with Immanuel Mennonite Church, who originated this idea. 

If you have a sign in your yard and a story to tell post it here on the official “Welcome Neighbors Sign” FB page.

In January, 2018, we at MennoMedia will be publishing a Herald Press book on immigration titled Love Undocumented: Risking Trust in a Fearful World, by Sarah Quezada. We hope to encourage people to look beyond their fears and respond to immigrants, even undocumented ones, with love.

Blessings in your work, worship and witness,

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development and Church Relations

David Shenk’s book shared with Islamic leaders by Emily Jones, Eastern Mennonite Missions

Last year, an Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) team that works in Christian-Muslim relations was invited to hold the only booth representing a Jesus-following witness at America’s largest yearly gathering of Muslims.

And this year, EMM’s Christian/Muslim Relations Team (CMRT) was invited back to the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA’s) annual convention—this time with a special request.

Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the recently-retired national director of ISNA’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, suggested that the team return with 3–4,000 free copies of A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue, a book co-authored by CMRT founder David W. Shenk and his Muslim colleague Badru D. Kateregga in 1980.

David Shenk, Sayyid Syeed & Andres Prins

Syeed hoped the book could be given to a significant number of the projected 20,000 people who would attend the convention.

“​As Muslims, we believe what the Quran (3:113) teaches us about believing Christians and requires us to look for those Christians whose lives are true representatives of those values. I have known and respected Dr. Shenk and his team, who are wholeheartedly dedicated in building bridges of understanding between Muslims and Christians,” said Syeed. “This year I invited Dr. Shenk to bring his wonderful book and offer it as a gift to hundreds of participants at our 54th annual convention in Chicago.”

In response to Syeed’s request, the book’s publisher, Herald Press, offered a bulk order of the books at one-third of the original price.

“It’s great to work on a project like this where there is direct ministry impact,” said Joe Questel, director of Sales and Marketing at Herald Press. “The challenge for us was to be able to supply (the books) at a price that would allow (the team) to afford that many, and to do it in a very tight time frame. We had done this once before on a smaller buy, so we had a great working relationship in place to be able to scale up for this opportunity.”

“I was very impressed … with how quickly they raised the funds,” added Questel.

Community members gave toward the bulk purchase through an online fundraiser held by EMM.

The CMRT was able to arrive at the June 30–July 3 convention with 2,500 Christian-Muslim dialogue books in tow.

“It was really a step of faith to carry all those books in,” said the book’s co-author and CMRT member Shenk, who made his first appearance at the convention this year.

His teammate Andres Prins agreed. “We were in a sea of booths, and I had little faith that the 2,500 books would all be taken by people who happened to pass by our booth,” he said. The CMRT’s booth was one of over 400 stands representing various Muslim-oriented organizations.

To the team members’ delight, however, the book was specially promoted throughout the convention. Syeed, this year’s ISNA Community Service Recognition Award winner, even mentioned the book’s importance in his acceptance speech.

Throughout the convention, the CMRT distributed all but 300 copies of A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue, each containing a welcoming and explanatory letter from authors Kateregga and Shenk.

Syeed said the book was a valued gift at the convention. “Our people appreciated this kind gesture and cherished (Shenk’s) book as a powerful tool for advancing better understanding and partnership between the two faith communities. We will continue to build solidarity against destructive hate and mutual demonization, and devote our resources to shaping a world of love and mutual respect,” he said.

One of Shenk’s favorite moments at the convention occurred when an attendee said his 12-year-old son had picked up a copy of the book the day before and read it for hours late into the night. “That showed that the book is written with the simplicity that allows a 12-year-old to find it interesting,” said Shenk.

The book has 12 chapters by Kateregga sharing a Muslim witness, followed by Shenk’s twelve chapters sharing a Christian witness. Shenk said his and Kateregga’s goal in writing the book was to represent each faith as accurately as possible.

“There are so many misunderstandings. This book has a commitment to faiths being communicated faithfully and understandably,” he said.

The CMRT felt that their book, and their presence, received a warm welcome at the convention.

“The hospitality was amazing! We felt so welcomed. People would ask what the books were about, and we had wonderful conversations,” said David Shenk’s wife Grace Shenk, another CMRT member.

One such conversation involved a sincere attempt to convert Grace Shenk to Islam. A visitor to the CMRT’s booth quoted numerous biblical proof-texts to convince her that Christianity didn’t make sense. She assured the man that her faith fully satisfied her.

Jonathan Bornman, another member of the CMRT, said the ISNA Convention makes space for difficult conversations like these. He’s observed that many Christians are very hesitant to have their faith challenged or to face difficult questions when interacting with Muslims.

Whether easy or challenging, Prins found each conversation he had at the convention to be enriching. “Attending events like this ISNA Convention, experiencing once again the generous reception of our Muslim hosts and their sincere questions regarding the gospel and concern for better relations, convinces me more than ever that these encounters are ones that all Christ-followers should be actively seeking out,” he said.