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


Twelve selected for song committee

June 16, 2016
News release

Twelve selected for song committee
Leadership team for song collection project also named

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—Six women and six men from across North America have been chosen to serve on the committee for the new song collection for Mennonite churches planned for release in 2020.

The committee selections were announced by Bradley Kauffman, recently named project director for the collection, and Amy Gingerich, editorial director for MennoMedia, the agency managing the project on behalf of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

The first meeting of the committee is planned for September 2016 in Harrisonburg.

The steering committee received more than 60 applications for the positions of project director, project assistant, music editor, text editor, worship resources editor, and committee member. “All of the applicants were well-qualified,” noted Gingerich. “We could have put together at least three excellent committees from the candidates.”

The editorial assignments include:

Adam Tice, text editor; Tice has written hymn texts for more than two hundred published songs and is a music composition graduate of Goshen College with a minor in Bible and religion. Originally from Pennsylvania, he also served a pastorate near Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Bergey, music editor; Bergey is a doctor of music arts (DMA) candidate at James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Va.) in orchestral conducting. He is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University majoring in church music. Originally from Franconia Conference, he is part of The Table, a Virginia Mennonite Conference congregation.

Sarah Kathleen Johnson, worship resources editor; Johnson is currently a PhD student in liturgical studies at Notre Dame University (South Bend, Ind.). She formerly pastored in Ottawa and is a graduate of Conrad Grebel University College.

The remainder of the committee, alphabetically by last name, include:

  • Darryl Neustaedter Barg, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Neustaedter Barg works for Mennonite Church Manitoba with wide experience in worship music and recording/videography. He is a member of Douglas Mennonite Church in Winnipeg.
  • Paul Dueck, Cartier, Manitoba; originally from Ontario, Dueck is a recently retired music educator and past graduate of Canadian Mennonite University who taught at Swift Current Bible School; he also pastored a congregation in Windsor.
  • Mike Erb, New Hamburg, Ontario; Erb is music director at Hillcrest Mennonite Church and is actively involved in Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Mennofolk, and a recording studio; Erb also served at Erb Street Mennonite Church.
  • Katie Graber, Columbus, Ohio; Graber is a graduate of Goshen College with a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Wisconsin. Originally from Iowa, she teaches piano and music at two universities, and is part of Columbus (Ohio) Mennonite Church.
  • Emily Grimes, Salem, Oregon; Grimes grew up attending Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship in Goshen and is a graduate of Goshen College in music education. She is the music director at Western Mennonite School in Oregon and attends Salem Mennonite Church.
  • Tom Harder, Wichita, Kansas; Harder is pastor at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita with a DMA in guitar performance and an MDiv from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, or AMBS).
  • SaeJin Lee, Elkhart, Indiana; Lee is a graduate of Goshen College, and currently studying at AMBS with a minor in music in worship; she is part of the Hively Avenue congregation and worked with music at the 2015 Mennonite World Conference.
  • Anneli Loepp Thiessen, Winnipeg; Loepp Thiessen is originally from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, and just finished a third year of studies in piano and worship at Canadian Mennonite University; she is part of The Gathering Church.
  • Cynthia Neufeld Smith, Topeka, Kansas; Neufeld Smith has a BA from Bluffton University, an MDiv from AMBS, and a DMA, all focused on worship and music. She and her husband, Roger, are copastors of Southern Hills Mennonite Church in Kansas.

The steering committee responsible for the work of the music committee consists of Russ Eanes and Amy Gingerich from MennoMedia; Terry Shue and Nicole Francisco Bailey representing Mennonite Church USA; and Karen Martens Zimmerly and Irma Fast Dueck representing Mennonite Church Canada.

Music committee members were selected partially on the basis of their compatibility with the guiding principles for the project, including an Anabaptist missional lens; a forward-looking vision for music in congregational life; an ability to work collaboratively; and a history of engaging a diversity of musical idioms.

Bradley Kauffman added that the committee will be engaging additional consultants to help ensure that the collection addresses the needs of the twenty first century church.

MennoMedia Staff

For more information on this press release:
Melodie Davis
News manager