Creating a hymnal cover

Designers, editors, and marketers weigh in on Voices Together process

First impressions are important. A great book cover catches your eye in three seconds and you pick it up to read further or you move on.

As people who sing to articulate our faith, Mennonites care a lot about the cover of their hymnals, as hymnals are one of the ways that Mennonites talk about faith.

A team of designers, editors, and marketers from MennoMedia worked for months to develop a cover for the new Voices Together hymnal, and we felt convicted to craft something that would thoughtfully reflect who we are.

In the week since we have unveiled the Voices Together cover, we have received so much support for the design (thank you!) and a number have also asked about the thought that went into the development process.

Here is a look at some of the considerations that went into the Voices Together cover:

Durability: We knew we needed to find something to stand up to heavy repeated use over decades. In some congregations the Voices Together pew edition will be picked up and handled multiple times each week. Therefore we wanted to find a color and cover material that would wear well, something that would hold up to smudgy fingers, to occasionally being dropped, and to being carted around within congregations.

Previous hymnals and supplements

Color choice: Our first attempts to choose a color focused on colors that could be distinguished from the previous four volumes. We tested out ideas with various groups of people in the church. More than 900 people contributed to a cover survey we posted earlier this year on Facebook, and burgundy and charcoal gray rose to the top. However, these colors did not generate any cohesive excitement.

Some shades of red or burgundy looked too much like the 1969 hymnal, some shades looked too orange, and some shades already looked dated. Could a brighter red also be interpreted as placing a lot of emphasis on the blood of Christ and not enough on the love of God?

When we looked at shades of black some felt it would be too easily confused with pew Bibles, and also look like an older hymnal and not something brand new for 2020 and beyond. And the grays just did not generate excitement.

Blue? Too much like Hymnal: A Worship Book unless we went with a lighter blue, but that wouldn’t wear well.

When we reintroduced purple as an option it seemed that everyone was enthralled. There were some hesitations that it would be too similar to Sing the Story supplement but the overall positive response out-weighed that concern.

Purple works well for a hymnal because it is both a vibrant color and it connects well with the liturgical year. Churches all over the world often drape the cross in purple during Lent. During Advent, many congregations light purple candles. Jesus is sometimes pictured with a purple sash to signify royalty.

The brightness of this purple has a fresh look that makes this new hymnal stand out from past ones. Culturally, purple has associations with royalty, majesty, and the kingdom of God.

Fonts: The two fonts on the cover are Palatino (Voices) and Scriptina (Together). These fonts speak to our solid tradition in the Mennonite Church and the overlapping and inbreaking of fresh inspiration. Voices Together will contain hymns foundational to Mennonites, new expressions of praise, as well as those songs and hymns that have emerged in the last decades. The mixture of old and new fonts on the cover showcases this intermingling to create something fresh.

Dove symbol: The Mennonite Hymnal (1969) has a small crown debossed in the top right. Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992, copublished with Brethren Press), has a lamb in a briar, in blue foil. What kind of symbol, if any, should be on a new worship and song collection for the church? The dove was chosen to represent the gospel of peace and carrying Jesus’ message around the world. The dove also represents the Holy Spirit, enlivening our worship and empowering us to follow Jesus. The circle can represent wholeness, community, the oneness of God, and Jesus as light of the world.

Font color: We evaluated various colors for the fonts that you see on the cover and determined that gold works well with the purple background. The gold foil follows the same font color as in some of older hymnals, such as The Mennonite Hymnal (1969), Church Hymnal (1927), and Church and Sunday School Hymnal (1902).

Full package: The titles of previous Mennonite hymnals have emphasized the notes on the page rather than what we do in worship: raise our voices to God together. Worship is about God—a time set apart for honoring God. And it’s in worship where we as the church unite through song. As one person wrote on Facebook this week, “In an increasingly diverse church–theologically, racially, economically—Voices Together  makes a theological statement: We are in this together. Our existence is not about the individual but about the whole; a whole that is held in Divine Love. Worship of the Divine comes out of this fundamental reality: We are One.”

Staff contributing to this blog post:
Amy Gingerich, publisher and executive director
Merrill Miller, senior designer
Bradley Kauffman, Voices Together general editor

All contributions that MennoMedia receives for Voices Together development costs are being doubled, up to $100,000 in the U.S. by Everence and MCC U.S. and up to $15,000 in Canada by a family foundation in Ontario, from now until Dec. 31, 2018. Read more here about the Voices Together, Giving Together campaign and consider a pledge at

Resonate committee members visit diverse congregations as part of hymnal project

May 8, 2018

Resonate committee members visit diverse congregations as part of hymnal project

HARRISONBURG, Va.— Bradley Kauffman, Katie Graber, and Darryl Neustaedter Barg have traveled thousands of miles since last June just to listen.

The members of the Resonate team have visited nine congregations in five locations as they work with their 10 colleagues to curate and edit a new suite of worship and music materials to be published by MennoMedia in cooperation with Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

An $18,000 Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship paid expenses for the three to travel to visit Mennonite churches in Texas, Montana, Florida, and California in the United States and Vancouver, British Columbia. Another trip is planned to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“The grant came about because we were looking for ways to engage the breadth of Mennonites in MC USA and MC Canada,” said Kauffman, who is project director. “We want the new hymnal to reflect the diversity of the church.”

Members of the Primera Iglesia band (left to right) David Aldana, Luis Hoajaca, Ariel Hoajaca, and Patricio Fernandez describe what music in worship means to them (Vancouver, BC)

Members of the Primera Iglesia band (left to right) David Aldana, Luis Hoajaca, Ariel Hoajaca, and Patricio Fernandez describe what music in worship means to them (Vancouver, BC)

They’ve been able to observe and listen to how congregations with varied linguistic, racial, and cultural backgrounds sing and worship together, said Graber. They’ve visited worship services held in eight different languages, including Spanish, Korean, and Lingala. In Los Angeles, they heard six languages in just two congregations.

The visits augment the work done by the entire committee—whose members are visiting congregations in their own geographical areas in the United States and Canada to help guide the work of the hymnal project.

Singers (left to right) Herve Nkwansambu, Stockwell Massamba, and Tom Massamba of Wholicare Community Missionary Church (Pasadena, CA)

Singers (left to right) Herve Nkwansambu, Stockwell Massamba, and Tom Massamba of Wholicare Community Missionary Church (Pasadena, CA)

On the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Busby, Montana, tribal members gathered and sang Cheyenne heart songs on a Saturday night at the Mennonite church. “We were treated to an evening of storytelling and singing among an intergenerational gathering of the community,” Kauffman said. In worship the next morning, one woman shared how important it was to have heard and remembered the songs of her ancestors. “It was an honor to be part of this event that she described as a profound spiritual experience,” Kauffman added.

The trio has been warmly received and prayed for at every location. “That’s been a tremendous gift, and we are deeply grateful for prayers as we do this work,” said Kauffman.

Youth leader Ngun Du Sang sings from his hymnal during a Saturday evening prayer meeting at another Chin Emmanuel congregation member’s house (Houston, TX).

Youth leader Ngun Duh Sang sings from his hymnal during a Saturday evening prayer meeting at another Chin Emmanuel congregation member’s house (Houston, TX).

In that congregation and others, the trio from the hymnal committee heard different languages and learned how songs in Hymnal: A Worship Book are used or translated. “In almost every congregation we’ve visited, we’ve encountered familiar hymns that have been translated,” Graber said. As they visit Spanish-speaking congregations, they are finding that groups on opposite sides of the countries are singing many of the same songs. Their experiences have been informative as they seek to include meaningful translations in the new project.

Neustaedter Barg has been gathering photos and video of the various groups singing, and conducting interviews and recording video footage of worship services. “The plan is to have a set of videos available as a worship resource to the entire Mennonite church,” Graber said.

During each visit they hear and learn new songs and are then able to bring those songs back to the committee for consideration, Kauffman said.

As they sit and experience the music and as they eat at fellowship meals, they also think of how singing happens in all the churches they aren’t able to visit. “We could learn something new from every congregation,” Graber said.

The new Mennonite worship and song collection will be available to the broader church in fall 2020. The project—which will include a pew edition, an app, and other resources—will soon have an official name and logo. The working title of “Resonate” will be retired when the new name and logo are unveiled, said Amy Gingerich, executive director and publisher for MennoMedia.

The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, makes grants possible with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540-908-3941 or email


Music selection for new hymnal shaped by new table of contents

March 1, 2018

Music selection for new hymnal shaped by new table of contents

UNION, Mich. — The work of the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee is slow and joyful and involves a lot of singing.

Six members of the Resonate team sample past selections from Sing the Story as they choose songs for the new Mennonite collection to be published in 2020. The team met in February at Camp Friedenswald in Michigan. From left to right: Tom Harder, SaeJin Lee, Cynthia Neufeld Smith, Darryl Neustaedter Barg, Allan Rudy Froese, and project director Bradley Kauffman.

The 14-person committee, working as the “Resonate Team,” gathered at Camp Friedenswald in February to continue its work toward the 2020 release of a new hymnal for Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

“We’re in an exciting season right now,” said Bradley Kauffman, project director. “In 2017, we received more than 2,100 submissions of new and original content ranging from visual art to written worship resources to songs and hymns. It’s energizing to work with that content.”

The committee sang and processed more than two hundred songs at its February gathering, a year after it started the selection process at another meeting. The group continues to discern what strikes a chord among committee members and what will resound with the larger church.

“We’ve been listening to Anabaptists across the United States and Canada to see what resonates with congregations in both countries,” Kauffman said.

At this recent meeting the committee affirmed a table of contents that has been underway for many months. The committee views the table of contents as a lens to evaluate both the canon of existing content and new submissions, and will use it to populate the sections of what will become the new hymnal to be published by MennoMedia.

Committee member Sarah Kathleen Johnson said the table of contents will help churches go one step deeper into the tradition of Hymnal: A Worship Book and how it shaped worship. “The table of contents of Hymnal: A Worship Book is quite unique in that it follows the flow of worship,” she said. “Thinking about that flow of worship helps shape decisions about what to include in the new book and how songs support the actions within worship.”

The committee has had holy moments as it’s gathered in a circle and sung and discussed music. The group is immensely grateful for the submissions and interest, as well as prayers. “As we carry out this work, we invite your prayers to accompany us as we select worship materials for MC Canada and MC USA,” Kauffman said.

Fundraising for the project continues, and MennoMedia hopes to raise another $200,000 to $300,000 this year. “As a small, nonprofit organization, we do not have the resources to create this massive project without the contributions of generous donors—individuals and congregations who are willing to be patrons and keep the final costs to congregations lower,” said Amy Gingerich, executive director and publisher for MennoMedia. “We continue to welcome donations for this project.”

“Resonate” has been a working name for the committee and its work, but an official name and logo for the suite of hymnal products will be announced soon, said Gingerich.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540-908-3941 or email

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