MennoMedia responds to news of sexual misconduct

HARRISONBURG, Va. — MennoMedia has recently learned that John Rempel’s ministerial credentials have been terminated by Mennonite Church Eastern Canada after an investigation into multiple complaints of ministerial sexual misconduct that stem from Rempel’s time serving as chaplain, residence director, and adjunct professor at Conrad Grebel University College from 1973 until 1989.

“We are taking this termination of credentials very seriously and we grieve with those who have been harmed,” said Amy Gingerich, MennoMedia publisher and executive director. “Over the years, Rempel has been involved on various writing and editorial teams for MennoMedia publications. We will work with Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada to study the publications in which Rempel has been involved, and we will seek outside expertise and discernment as we wrestle with the complicated questions this revocation of credentials raises.”

“In Scripture we repeatedly see God standing with survivors, and MennoMedia stands with survivors at this time,” said Gingerich. “We know that Rempel’s work has been used as authoritative across the denominations, and we know that many, including us at MennoMedia, are grappling with how to respond.”

Earlier this year, a team of writers developed “Show Strength: How to Respond When Worship Materials Are Implicated in Abuse.” That resource was developed to help individuals and communities of faith respond when it is discovered that beloved songs and prayers were written by a person who has perpetrated sexual violence.

However, the resource was created with solo-authored songs and worship resources in mind. All of Rempel’s writing and editing published by MennoMedia was done as part of a collaborative team.

“Even as we point congregations to the ‘Show Strength’ resource, we are aware of its limitations and original intentions around solo-authored works. We must now think through how to offer up additional guidance for congregations around works developed collaboratively,” said Gingerich.

John Rempel had no direct role in making any final decisions about the contents of Voices Together. Any contributions he made as a drafter or reviewer (one among many), as a translator, or through other sources went through an extensive process of independent committee review and revision.

At the same time, it is difficult to assess Rempel’s indirect influence through previous collaborative publications including Hymnal: A Worship Book and the Minister’s Manual, among other sources. Voices Together is in continuity with previous Mennonite publications and the historical and ecumenical Christian tradition, while also representing a new generation of worship resources with new leadership. It is necessary to carefully examine how all aspects of worship, including this new generation of resources, can better support survivors and shape communities that oppose violence in all forms.

Do not sing together if you are gathering physically for worship

Coping with temporary loss of in-person congregational song

With stay-at-home orders being lifted across much of the U.S. and Canada, churches are thinking about what it will look like to open their doors again. Yet because the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much with us, it is up to churches to consider how to do so safely.

While singing is considered vital in many congregations, at this time epidemiologists have said that singing together poses an especially high risk for transmitting the virus. Deep breathing and projecting the voice in song creates smaller particles that travel farther than normal breathing and speaking. Even outdoors and with masks, physically gathering for congregational singing is currently unsafe.

As people of faith who love to sing, we in the church deeply feel this loss. Congregations are seeking to stay connected to God and one another by singing during online worship and by embracing other aspects of worship when gathering in person.

When feeling a sense of grief about the temporary loss of in-person singing, keep the following in mind:

  • Remember that worshiping online is an act of love and care to keep one another and the most vulnerable in our communities safe.
  • Celebrate that God is present and brings us together across distance.
  • Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do.
  • Honor the feelings of sorrow that many are experiencing as a healthy part of adjusting to the realities of the time.
  • Encourage singing at home within families and households.

When you worship on the screen, consider the following:

  • Allow worshipers to see others’ faces on the digital platform during muted singing so they can see that they are singing together.
  • Encourage participation in chat features during live services or watch parties. Sharing meaningful lines from songs, describing where and how people are participating in worship, or a simple “Amen” can enhance the experience of being together while apart.
  • Embrace lag, delayed responses, and frozen screens as part of this worship experience.
  • Provide worshipers with lyrics or notated music on the screen or in print.

We honor God when we worship in ways that protect the physical health and safety of ourselves and our community. We know God hears our praise, lament, and prayer when we sing from our homes or silently in our hearts.

 

***These statements should not be taken as medical advice. Follow guidelines from your local health department for COVID-19 prevention.***

Ways to sing together if you are gathering online for worship

One of the most potent ways we cope with hardship is by singing and praying together. Amid the loss of in-person gathering, congregations have shown a tremendous amount of creativity, whether worshiping via video conference platforms such as Zoom, live-streaming a service, or pre-recording the service. While we deeply feel the loss of the ability to gather physically together for worship and song, there are many ways to sing together virtually.

Members of the Voices Together committee have put together the following tips for singing in online worship, along with examples of songs that work well in these formats.

  • Use actions and movement to see other people’s engagement.
    • Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia, Praise Ye the Lord (standing up and sitting down)
    • Holy Lord (Steve Bell) – CCLI #2850298
    • Like a Rock (Linnea Good) – OneLicense #97534
    • As I Rise (All Sons and Daughters) – CCLI #7016414
  • Use call-and-response, with a leader singing one phrase and another leader responding with a different phrase. This can be done with muted worshipers.
    • Guide My Feet – HWB #546 – public domain
    • Asithi: Amen – HWB #64 – public domain
  • Try lining out, with a leader singing one phrase and another leader repeating that phrase along with muted worshipers. Most songs can work this way; be sure to use short fragments.
    • God Welcomes All (John Bell) – OneLicense #72484
    • Cantai ao Senhor (O Sing to the Lord) – STJ #12 – public domain
  • Use a drone by holding a sustained note or chord on mute while one person sings. This works well for chants, American folk hymnody, and other pentatonic tunes.
    • Creator of the Stars of Night (Noel Goemanne) – OneLicense #91537
    • God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens – HWB #414 – OneLicense #8704
  • Add additional verses for songs where one word or phrase changes in each verse. Encourage worshipers to suggest additional verses using the chat feature.
    • Peace before Us – STS #16 – OneLicense#00141
    • There Is More Love Somewhere – STJ #109 – public domain
  • Embrace cacophony! Rounds, echo songs, and other repetitive songs work well with overlapping voices.
    • We Shall Walk through the Valley- HWB #412 – public domain
    • By the Waters of Babylon – HWB #148 – public domain
    • Dona nobis pacem – HWB #346 – public domain
    • I Will Call upon the Lord – STJ #19 – CCLI #11263

If your congregation is using recorded music:

  • Sing along with songs recorded by members of the community before worship. This can include more leaders in livestreams and prevent Internet connectivity issues from interfering with sharing music live on Zoom.
  • Sing along with existing videos or audio recordings of your church to share music that is comfortable and is sung by familiar voices.
  • Listen to or sing along with songs recorded by Mennonite musicians or choirs. See the Anabaptist Worship Network’s spreadsheet of existing videos.