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.

 

Is self-care selfish? Yamasaki shares how to “take care of yourself” and follow Jesus

Is self-care selfish?
April Yamasaki shares how to “take care of yourself” and follow Jesus

HARRISONBURG, Va. — We often hear the phrase “take care of yourself,” but how to find time to do that in today’s world? For many Christians, the idea of self-care sounds contrary to the command of Jesus to deny yourself and follow him. How exactly do believers balance these two seemingly opposite pursuits?

Author April Yamasaki explores this contradiction in Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength (Herald Press, September 2018). Yamasaki is a Mennonite pastor in British Columbia.

Drawing on the ancient scriptural command to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, Yamasaki helps readers think about the spiritual dimensions of attending to your own needs and finding true rest in a fast-paced world. She weaves together personal stories, biblical and theological insights, questions for reflection, and practical ideas for self-care. Four Gifts helps readers sustain their spirits and balance competing demands without adding more items to their to-do lists.

“I know I need self-care, yet can’t always get there,” writes Yamasaki. “I need a bigger vision of caring for myself that also embraces caring for others and surrendering myself to God’s call and care.”

Yamasaki addresses specific challenges like setting priorities, living in a digital world, dealing with worry, and getting a good night’s sleep. “Our minds find renewal as we learn, serve, and rest,” Yamasaki says. “At its best, self-care is a way of life, a gift that sustains each of us as we serve God and serve other people.”

“In Four Gifts, April’s powerful insights are on brilliant display,” says Christena Cleveland, author of Disunity in Christ. “With an integrative mind-body-spirit approach, Yamasaki leads us on a journey that is worth following.”

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, author of Start, Love, Repeat, writes that Four Gifts is “the most thorough and thoughtful exploration of self-care I have ever come across.”

Yamasaki focuses her writing on spiritual growth and Christian living. A member of Redbud Writers Guild, she is the author of, or contributor to, 15 books including Sacred Pauses, Upside-Down Living: Sharing Faith Stories, Spark: Igniting Your God-Given Creativity, and Ordinary Time with Jesus, among others. Her work has also appeared in the Christian Century and Canadian Mennonite. Yamasaki has more than 20 years of experience as a congregational pastor and leads workshops and Bible studies in denominational and other settings. She and her husband, Gary, live near Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Four Gifts is available from Herald Press for $16.99 (paperback) and $13.99 (ebook) at 800-245-7894 or at 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 April Yamasaki, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540-908-3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond romance novels: Amish and Mennonite women tell their own stories in Homespun

July 31, 2018

Beyond romance novels:
Amish and Mennonite women tell their own stories in Homespun

HARRISONBURG, Va.— Ever wish you could visit with a group of Amish or Mennonite women over a cup of coffee? In the pages of Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women In Their Own Words (August 2018), edited by Lorilee Craker. Amish and Plain Mennonite women swap stories and spin yarns. Craker, bestselling author of Money Secrets of the Amish, collected these personal writings about hospitality, home, grief, joy, and walks with God.

“These essays enthused my soul, and I came away feeling as if I had just been to church,” writes Craker. “There is something wonderfully elemental and childlike about the devotion expressed here, devotion even amid doubt. These pieces drew me closer to the One who calls all his daughters ‘beloved.’”

Chapters include stories such as a woman who struggles with feeling inferior to her sister; a woman longing for a baby; and a hilarious tale of a woman who accidentally bought stretchy material to sew her husband’s pants. Each woman’s story unveils a hidden side of a community many are curious about. Writers include Linda Byler, Sherry Gore, Lovina Eicher, Lucinda Miller and dozens more.

Behind Amish romance novels and tourist spots and television shows stand real people, with longings and loves just like the rest of us. In Homespun, readers no longer have to wonder what life is like for Amish and Mennonite women. They can read real stories from real lives.

Editor Lorilee Craker is the author of thirteen books, including Money Secrets of the Amish; Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me; My Journey to Heaven with Marv Besteman; and the New York Times bestseller Through the Story with Lynne Spears. Connect with her at LorileeCraker.com.

Homespun is available from Herald Press for $15.99 (paperback) and $12.99 (ebook) at 800-245-7894 or at 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 Lorilee Craker, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540-908-3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.