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

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




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

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

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