Music and worship leaders gather at Laurelville conference

News release

January 18, 2019

Music and worship leaders gather at Laurelville conference

Eagerness mounts for Voices Together hymnal coming in 2020

MOUNT PLEASANT, Pa.—“I’m amazed at the exhilaration that comes from a room full of voices singing together,” said Brent Alderfer, a member of Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, Pa. and part of a group of 11 persons from that congregation who joined the annual Laurelville Music and Worship Leaders Retreat in western Pennsylvania in early January.

Anticipation and energy for the new Voices Together music and worship collection, which is nearing the end of the research, song collection, and testing phase, was in high gear at Laurelville. A video of singing, plus a photo gallery by photographer Kreg Ulery of participants enjoying the worship, music, and jam sessions can be found on the website for the hymnal at voicestogetherhymnal.org.

Over 150 participants gathered to test and explore songs in strong consideration for the upcoming hymnal. The retreat focused on sections of the book from “Creation” through “Reign of Christ.”

Attendees learned about the joys and challenges of shaping a worship book for the 21st century church and examined leadership skills to take back to home congregations. Emily Rittenhouse, from Blooming Glen, noted, “I got a better grasp of what an enormous undertaking this has been for the team, and how much that has pulled them away from other important things in their lives.” She added, “It is a sacrifice and a gift that will be interwoven into the songs we sing for decades to come.” Project director Bradley Kauffman estimates the team has reviewed at least 5000 pieces of music.

Michael Bishop, pastor of music, worship and pastoral care at Blooming Glen is enthusiastic about the new collection. “Voices Together will honor our past peoplehood, provide tools for living in these days, and draw us toward the work of God, who is always leading into a new creation,” he said. He notes that the team from their church included choir singers, song leaders, and those involved in leading worship. Robin Schilling, a leader from Blooming Glen added, “I was inspired with new ideas for the coming year.”

Tom Lehman, a member of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship in Durham, N.C. mentioned, “We were encouraged in considerable detail to sing songs in more than our own native language. The idea, of course, is inclusivity.” Alderfer affirmed, “Singing connects us to people around the world.”

Adam Tice, text editor for the hymnal, suggested that a suitable hymn collection should probably include at least a few hymns that the individual user does not appreciate, always mindful that any particular song may be someone else’s “heart” song which resonates deeply with them.

Mark Diller Harder, pastor of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church in Ontario said “I am filled with deep confidence and trust in this dedicated team. There is thoughtfulness and intentionality that balances continuity and change, all with an openness to the Spirit’s leading.”

Pre-orders and final pricing will be available this summer at the Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA gatherings in June and July, respectively.

 

Staff Release
Mennonite Media
More information: LeAnn Hamby at 540 908 3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

 

 

 

Voices Together Central Worship Practices Committee will seek input this fall

News Release
September 7, 2018

Group focused on worship practices gathers as part of the Voices Together project

Voices Together Central Worship Practices Committee will seek input this fall

HARRISONBURG, Va. — In addition to considering the songs we sing in worship, a group of people is taking a look at the words and actions that accompany central worship practices such as baptism, communion, child blessing, and funerals.

Six people who have been meeting virtually for the last two years via videoconference gathered together in person for the first and only time to speak through and listen to the worship resources that will be part of Voices Together, a new hymnal to be published by MennoMedia in 2020 for Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

The Voices Together Central Practices Committee has been gathering and assessing the words that accompany baptism, communion, footwashing, child blessing, marriage, healing/anointing, funerals, membership, and leadership rituals. The committee refers to these acts of worship collectively as central practices because of their central role in expressing and forming Anabaptist Mennonite identity for individuals and congregations.

“We sing songs about who we are, but we also use words and actions to express our faith in congregational worship and at significant moments in our lives. These are resources congregations turn to again and again,” said Sarah Kathleen Johnson, worship resources editor and co-chair of the committee. “When we baptize, we use water and words. When we share communion, we eat and drink, and we use words. We are caring both for what is said in worship and for instructions that aid leaders in preparing.”

Irma Fast Dueck, co-chair for the group, said, “It is a daunting task to attempt to find language that accompanies an experience such as baptism or communion, for these are practices whose meaning dwarfs any words that could possibly be said. And these words may be repeated by the church for the next 25 years or more. That’s overwhelming, and yet as I work alongside this group on these practices, I felt a remarkable sense of connection—to those working with me and the deep and rich tradition. The whole experience made me feel remarkably hopeful. And blessed.”

The Central Practices Committee that is part of the Voices Together project includes (from left to right) Irma Fast Dueck, Isaac Villegas, Heidi Miller, Sarah Kathleen Johnson, Adam Tice, and Allan Rudy-Froese.

Johnson, along with Adam Tice and Allan Rudy-Froese, is also part of the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee working on the new hymnal. Other members of the Central Practices Committee are Isaac Villegas and Heidi Miller.

The group started by talking through the theological and practical core of each practice and identifying the types of resources to include in Voices Together to support each practice, said Johnson. Writers, mostly pastors and scholars, have been creating drafts of these resources since April 2018. The three-day gathering in August allowed the committee to workshop and hone them, thinking through the practical ways in which someone speaks while holding a child or sharing the cup. It’s work that couldn’t have happened in the same way in a video chat. “You can’t read corporately online,” said Johnson.

Versions of these resources will be available later this fall for several months of testing, according to Johnson. “We wish to give communities the opportunity to explore, test, and respond to these resources before they are published,” she said. If you are interested in having your congregation test these worship resources, please email editorial assistant Karen Gonzol (KarenG@MennoMedia.org) before October 1, 2018.

Central worship practices can be a source of tension and division within the denomination. Mennonites, like other denominations, are wrestling with the large questions of who receives communion, who is allowed to be married, and who is able to be ordained. Though Voices Together is a denominational hymnal project, it is local congregations who make choices about central practices that can be divisive in the church as a whole. There’s diversity within the Mennonite church, and both the Worship and Song Committee and the Central Practices group are trying to offer resources for a range of congregations. “We aspire to prepare resources with enough space for local congregations and other bodies to make a range of choices regarding these questions,” said Johnson.

The resources will be included in the hymnal, and additional options and instructions will be found in a leader book that accompanies the hymnal.

It is in worship that these words will come to life, said Villegas. “This has been spiritual work, intimate labor—to receive the phrases and sentences from faithful people from the broad expanse of our tradition, from the past and the present, and to hone their words into prayers and litanies that will sustain the faith of all of us,” he said. “My hope is that our people will experience themselves drawn into God’s life when they turn these words into flesh through their worship.”

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540-908- 3941 or email LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

 

Hymnal volunteer hours valued at $296,280 annually

News Release

August 29, 2018                                                                                                                  Hymnal volunteer hours valued at $296,280 annually

HARRISONBURG, Va. — Producing a new hymnal is a major undertaking. A project of this significance takes many hours and substantial funding. Before the Voices Together hymnal is ever produced, MennoMedia will spend approximately $700,000 in production and development costs.

As this significant monetary figure is one crucial part of the momentum behind Voices Together, it is worth remembering that many in-kind donations are essential for completing a project of this magnitude. The volunteer Mennonite Worship and Song Committee is contributing extraordinary levels of time and expertise to bring Voices Together to fruition. In addition to the 12 committee members, more than 50 other volunteers have contributed directly to the collection on subcommittees and as consultants, with many others making their voices heard through surveys, community events, and financial contributions to the project.

2016 photo of the volunteer Worship and Song Committee. At the far left are project director Bradley Kauffman and Amy Gingerich, executive director and publisher at MennoMedia, quoted in this news release.

The 12 members of the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee have committed many hours to collection work. “Committee members and affiliated networks of scholars, writers, pastors, and musicians are donating an estimated 12,000 hours annually,” said Bradley Kauffman, project director for Voices Together. “Frequent video conferences, independent work, and three in-person meetings per year add up to a life-altering level of volunteer commitment for each member. They are giving an extraordinary gift to the Mennonite church.” The number of hours is likely to climb as the committee begins its third and most labor-intensive year of work in September.

The organization Independent Sector values volunteer time at $24.69 per hour. Applying this approximation to volunteer hours brings the annual monetary value of hours donated to the hymnal project to roughly $296,280.

“Every member of the committee is highly dedicated to this project, and each one brings expertise in specific areas. It has been amazing to see them bring their many gifts together for the benefit of the church,” said Amy Gingerich, executive director and publisher at MennoMedia. “As a small church agency, this project would not be possible without their volunteer hours, and we are so grateful for their work.”

MennoMedia is accepting donations for the new hymnal collection by check or online at VoicesTogetherHymnal.org.

For more information about the Mennonite Worship and Song Collection project or to schedule an interview with Bradley Kauffman, project director, contact LeAnn Hamby at (540) 908-3941 or email LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.