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 www.VoicesTogetherHymnal.com

How small movements can produce larger change

June 7, 2018

News Release

How small movements can produce larger change

HARRISONBURG, Va.— In Soul Force: Seven Pivots toward Courage, Community, and Change (Herald Press, June 2018) two nationally recognized nonprofit leaders, Reesheda Graham-Washington and Shawn Casselberry, offer seven “pivots”—shifts in thinking and practice—that bring transformation in individuals, communities, and systems.

Building on Mahatma Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s concept of a power mightier than ourselves, Soul Force helps readers understand and make shifts including progression from barriers to bridge-building, self-centeredness to solidarity, consuming to creating, and maintenance to movement. The authors include true stories from their community, professional, and church work. “Soul force is an awakening to the realization that we have a creative force within us, because we all bear the divine imprint of the Creator,” the authors write. “Soul force is a courageous, compassionate love that leads to personal and social transformation.”

Leroy Barber, executive director of The Voices Project, says of the book, “Reesheda Graham-Washington and Shawn Casselberry are grassroots leaders who were living out Soul Force long before they wrote about it. If you want to unleash the power of change in your life and community, this book is a roadmap.” The book is geared for church and wider audiences alike.

Michelle Warren, author of The Power of Proximity praises Soul Force as “a clear call to action for individuals and communities. The authors remind us that small, intentional pivots can make a significant impact for change.”

Reesheda Graham-Washington and Shawn Casselberry

Reesheda Graham-Washington is executive director of Communities First Association, a faith-based nonprofit committed to asset-based community development, and the founder CEO of L!VE Café, a boutique coffeehouse that focuses on transformation. She is licensed in the Evangelical Covenant Church and is a former teacher and administrator for Chicago Public Schools. She and her husband have three daughters and live in Chicago.

Shawn Casselberry is executive director of Mission Year, a yearlong urban ministry program focused on Christian service and discipleship. He is author of God is in the City: Encounters of Grace and Transformation. He has a master’s degree in world missions and evangelism from Asbury Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Jen, live on Chicago’s West Side.

Soul Force is available from Herald Press for $16.99 (paperback) and $13.99 (ebook) via 800‑245‑7894 and at the Herald Press webstore, www.HeraldPress.com, Amazon, and other online sources. Canadian customers can order from CommonWord (877‑846‑1593), Parasource (800‑263‑2664), and elsewhere.

To schedule an interview with either author, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540‑908‑3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

Voices Together announced as title for new hymnal

Matching gift campaign for hymnal launched by Everence and MCC U.S.; option for matching gifts also launches in Canada

HARRISONBURG, Va.—The new worship and song collection for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada will be called Voices Together.

“In early February more than 900 people responded to a title and cover survey we released via our MennoMedia Facebook page,” said Amy Gingerich, executive director and publisher at MennoMedia. “Of the four title choices offered, Voices Together was the clear favorite.”

Simultaneously, MennoMedia announces the launch of a final fundraising phase for the project, called “Voices Together, Giving Together.”

As of mid-May, $465,000 toward the $700,000 fund-raising goal had been pledged or given for Voices Together. As a small church agency, MennoMedia does not have the cash reserves to undertake such a large project and is working to cover all development costs for this hymnal with donations.

Gingerich said Everence® and Mennonite Central Committee U.S. have stepped up as partners in this final fund-raising phase to complete the work on Voices Together, offering a combined $100,000 matching gift for any new donations to the hymnal project. “This will be a dollar-for-dollar match, open to anyone, beginning immediately,” she explained.

In Canada, an anonymous family foundation in Ontario has also generously offered to match all donations to Voices Together, up to $15,000. This too is a dollar-for-dollar match and open to anyone, beginning immediately.

“I believe these very generous matching gifts will spur generosity across the church to help MennoMedia finish off the new hymnal,” Gingerich remarked in announcing the campaign. “Like MennoMedia, Everence and Mennonite Central Committee care about the life and vitality of our congregations, where music is a key element of worship. Their joint financial support helps ensure that the final worship and song collection will be affordable for congregations.

Voices Together is an exciting new worship and song collection that will deepen our lives of faith,” added Ken Hochstetler, president and CEO of Everence. “In support of the financial wellbeing of congregations and church members across denominational and cultural lines, we’re glad to support MennoMedia’s efforts and to help make this resource available to all.”

Bradley Kauffman, general editor of Voices Together points out, “The church is made up of diverse, sometimes disparate voices. When we gather together for worship, we form the body of Christ. Voices Together celebrates the miracle that takes place when two or three form a communion of believers.”

Voices Together will include spoken words for worship, visual art, and songs. All of these together give shape to vibrant worship. The word voice is both a noun and verb. It is expansive, evoking ideas of both sound and conviction.

“The title Voices Together opens space for multiple dimensions of what we hope to offer in this new collection,” said Kauffman. “It honors the many voices in our churches and in our approaches to congregational song.”

Once the book had a title, senior designer Merrill Miller started on the book’s cover. Many colors were evaluated as possibilities, and purple was chosen as the final cover because of its worshipful connection.

The new Voices Together hymnal will be available in Fall 2020 in the following formats:

  • Pew edition
  • Projection edition
  • Large-print and keyboard edition
  • Musical accompaniment edition
  • Worship leaders edition
  • App

Gifts to the matching gift campaign “Voices Together, Giving Together” can be made at VoicesTogetherHymnal.org. Or mail checks to MennoMedia, P.O. Box 866, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 22803 or to Mennonite Church Canada, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3P 0M4.

—Staff release