Development phase launches website as Mennonite song collection project commences

Press Release
August 31, 2016

Development phase launches website as Mennonite song collection project commences
Song collection committee’s first meeting planned for September 22–25

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—A dedicated fundraising website for the new song collection for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada has been launched at HymnalProject606.com.

The fundraising phase is called Project 606, so dubbed from the anthem version of “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,” affectionately known as “606” from its designation in the red 1969 Mennonite Hymnal.

The fundraising goal is $606,000; funds are needed to help with development costs ahead of sales years.

MennoMedia is the agency taking leadership for the new hymnal. The project also anticipates a digital version of much of the music.

The 13-person song collection project committee comprised of both Canadian and U.S. citizens will meet for the first time September 22–25 in Harrisonburg.

About hymn “606,” Russ Eanes, MennoMedia’s executive director, notes he has been asked more than once, “When you do a new hymnal, can you put ‘606’ back in its place?”

The “606” song in a cappella form continues to inspire. On May 2, 2015, Garrison Keillor hosted his Prairie Home Companion radio program live from Goshen College. The show, which is broadcast nationally to an audience of four million, opened with the thousand-member, mostly Mennonite audience’s a cappella rendition of “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” When the singing ended, Keillor said, “Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. You’re stunning me.”

In March 2016, Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg sponsored a concert of the British a cappella music group Voces 8. Their mix of sacred and pop music entertains audiences all over the world. As is customary toward the end of the EMHS concert, the again mostly Mennonite audience sang “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” in a cappella for Voces 8. As Eanes related, Voces 8 listened on stage in quiet appreciation. When the echoes of the final “Amen” receded, Voces 8 gave the crowd a loud ovation.

One member of the group, Ollie, was in tears. He later explained, “Sorry I was blubbing. Last year I was in a serious car accident, totaling my car. Amazingly, I wasn’t injured, but I blacked out. While I was unconscious, I had a strange sense of being taken care of in a special way. I felt held and looked after. It had a profound impact on me.” The audience’s singing of “606” again moved him, reminding him of God’s care.

Mennonites sometimes take beautiful singing for granted. “But we should never forget what a gift it is, and that this gift is so readily obvious to outsiders,” reminds Eanes.

To date, more than $235,000 has been given or promised, representing nearly 40 percent of the goal. HymnalProject606.com accepts credit cards; those who give $500 or more over the next three years can be named, or honor a loved one, with a line in the back of the hymnal. In addition to donations at the website, people can recommend favorite songs.

A separate song and worship resources collection website will be launched this fall, where writers, composers, and song writers will find submission guidelines.

MennoMedia Staff

 

High-resolution photos available.

 

For more information from Herald Press:

Melodie Davis

News manager

MennoMedia

540-574-4874

MelodieD@mennomedia.org

 

 

Project 606 has a new website

We at MennoMedia recently launched a website to share information and allow individuals to contribute to the creation of a new song collection which we are developing for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. The site is http://hymnalproject606.com/

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Project 606 is the name of the fundraising aspect of the development phase of the song collection. It was so named in recognition of the significance of the anthem version of the traditional “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” prayer, affectionately known as “606” from its designation in the red 1969 Mennonite Hymnal.

Mennonite Hymnal

The 13-person hymnal committee, whose work the funds being raised is underwriting, is comprised of five Canadians and eight U.S. citizens and will met for the first time on September 22-25 in Harrisonburg, Va.

About hymn “606,” Russ Eanes, MennoMedia’s Executive Director notes he has been asked more than once, “When you do a new hymnal, can you put ‘606’ back it its place?” The goal for Project 606 is to raise $606,000 to pay for the Project Director’s salary, the travel, lodging and meal expenses for the 13 person hymnal committee over three years, administrative and other staff support to develop a new hymnal for the next generation of Mennonites. We need to raise these funds because MennoMedia is a small publisher without the financial reserves needed to undertake such a big project ahead of sales.

Some have asked “Do we really need another hymnal?” to which I reply, it has been 24 years since Hymnal: A Worship Book (HWB) was released, a longer gap than the 23 years between the red Mennonite Hymnal (1969) and HWB (1992).

Hymnal A Worship Book

Churches have been asking whether they should replace their worn hymnals or wait for the next one. MC USA and Mennonite Church Canada have asked MennoMedia to produce a new hymnal. While at Mennonite World Conference in August, 2015 I noticed 60% of the music in the songbook was not in HWB, Sing the Story or Sing the Journey. These new songs greatly enhanced the corporate worship at MWC. The church is asking for a new song collection. We owe it to our faith communities to give them the best music resources available.

The “606” song, in a cappella form, continues to inspire, with stories abounding. On May 2, 2015, Garrison Keillor hosted his Prairie Home Companion radio program live from Goshen College. The show, which is broadcast nationally to an audience of four million, opened with the thousand-member, mostly-Mennonite, audience’s a cappella rendition of “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” When the singing ended, Keillor said, “Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. You’re stunning me.”

In March of 2016, Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg, Va sponsored a concert of the British a cappella music group Voces8. Their mix of sacred and pop music entertains audiences all over the world. Toward the end, as is customary, the again mostly-Mennonite audience sang a cappella for Voces 8. This year the EMHS crowd sang “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” As Eanes related, Voces 8 listened on stage in quiet appreciation. When the echoes of the final “Amen” receded, Voces 8 gave the crowd a loud ovation.

Eastern_Mennonite_School_Logo

One member of the group, Ollie, was in tears. He later explained, “Sorry I was blubbering. Last year I was in a serious car accident, totaling my car. Amazingly, I wasn’t injured, but I blacked out. While I was unconscious, I had a strange sense of being taken care of in a special way. I felt held and looked after. It had a profound impact on me.” The audience’s singing of “606” again moved him, reminding him of God’s care.

Mennonites sometimes take beautiful singing for granted. “But we should never forget what a gift it is and that this gift is so readily obvious to outsiders,” reminds Eanes.

To date more than $235,000 has been given or promised representing nearly 40 percent of the goal. The www.HymnalProject606.com website accepts credit cards; those who give as little as $500 over the next 3 years can be named, or honor a loved one, with a line in the back of the hymnal. In addition to donations, people can recommend favorite songs for inclusion in the new hymnal. The committee has promised to consider each submission.

My wife and her five siblings have given a gift to honor their parents with a line in the back of the hymnal saying: Honoring our parents Russell & Gladys Alderfer, “Oh for a 1,000 tongues to sing.”

I encourage to honor your loved ones with a line in the new hymnal. Those in the U.S. can fill out the paperwork online, and both U.S. and Canadians can give using a credit card. Click here to visit the website HymnalProject606.com

I will personally contact those Canadians who give through Mennonite Church Canada’s website – click here – to record their dedications for the back of the hymnal.

MC Canada DoveWM

Thank you for your gifts and support. It is much needed and greatly appreciated.

Blessings in your work, worship and witness,

Steve Carpenter

Steve Carpenter Director of Development and Church Relations

Director of Development and Church Relations

A Short History of Mennonite Hymnals – Presentation by Ken Nafziger

nafzigkjHow our hymns influence and reflect our changing theology

Dr. Kenneth J. Nafziger, longtime and noted professor of music at Eastern Mennonite University—plus a key figure in putting together a hymnal and two song supplements—spoke at a recent breakfast meeting of a group called Anabaptist Center for Religion and Society (ACRS).

His topic? How our hymns influence and reflect our changing theology.

Former radio speaker Margaret Foth introduced Ken and reflected on memories of her mother singing—almost every morning—the familiar “I owe the Lord a morning song, of gratitude and praise . . .” There were numerous affirmative nods around the room—obviously a similar remembrance for many.

As Ken got up to speak about the history of Mennonite hymnals, he first told a story of P1080508the origins of this “quintessentially Mennonite” hymn, written by Amos Herr, a Lancaster County (Pa.) bishop. One Sunday morning when the snow was s deep Amos’s horse couldn’t make it through the drifts to church, Amos wrote this song of gratitude. “It has been in every hymnal since then,” Ken noted, a “simple and sturdy tune like Shaker furniture, with clearly conveyed ideas.”

This story reminded Ken of the time he took a group of EMU students to southwestern Germany, an area from which the predecessors of many North American Mennonites hail. Some in that tour group were music students, and someone in a congregation they were visiting asked that they sing “I Owe the Lord a Morning Song.“ Many of the EMU students, youngsters that they are, didn’t know it! So the congregation in Germany sang it in English for the EMU students! They said that PAX and CPS volunteers in the late ’50s and early ’60s had taught them the song.

Ken followed his wonderful story by launching the roomful of expectant listeners into a rich a cappella verse or two. I don’t think anyone was disappointed to sing this old song, nor in Ken’s rundown that followed of Mennonite hymnals in the U.S. (an admittedly incomplete history, he noted). Many of the old timers (I’ll count myself as one) in the audience remembered these titles, all published by Mennonite Publishing House or Herald Press (the ones with links are still sold on the MennoMedia store).

P1070594

Below are just 11 out of his list of 25 of “Mennonite Hymnals in the U.S.”

1902 Church and Sunday School Hymnal
1916: Life Songs #1
1924: Children’s Hymns and Songs
1927: Church Hymnal
1938: Life Songs #2
1947: Junior Hymns
1969: The Mennonite Hymnal (from whence came #606)
Sing and Rejoice, Sing the Journey, and Sing the Story, 1979, 2005, and 2007, respectively
1992 Hymnal: A Worship Book (co-published with Brethren Press for Mennonite and Church of the Brethren congregations)

Ken gave additional juicy one-liners about the difficult job of producing a new song collection that pleases everyone. Some of these may have been quotes from other people:

  • The only thing wrong with a new hymn is that no one knows it yet.
  • It is easy to slide into ruts in our music.
  • The power of social singing—for the fun of it—is underestimated.
  • #606 was put into a section of the 1969 hymnal that had songs more difficult to sing. When its new number in Hymnal: A Worship Book, #118, was first announced in some venues, there were audible boos and hisses!
  • New hymnals unleash new creativity by poets, pastors and musicians who want to publish new hymns they’ve written or composed.
  • Catholics originally did not sing during their worship—that changed with Vatican II when they were told they could or should sing.
  • Many of us remember the Medical Mission Sisters, a nun’s group out of South America in the ’60s, which popularized folk-type music for Catholic worship.
  • Old Mennonites did not traditionally use instruments; Ken remembers one Gospel Herald editor writing that a guitar was the perfect accompaniment for worship because it was “so cheap.”
  • Songs with rhythm have been a serious challenge for Mennonites.
  • The first printing of Sing and Rejoice was withdrawn and destroyed because it had a stanza with the word “gay” in it.
  • The 1992 hymnal was the first hymnal for Mennonites to be organized according to different acts or movements of worship such as gathering, praise, thanksgiving.
  • It was also the first hymnal with a section on “doubt.” Ken said people thanked him for helping to create a section on doubt in a hymnal.
  • “How Great Thou Art” cost more to include than any other song; it should perhaps never have been copyrighted.

P1080509Finally, Ken offered practical ideas and thoughts as you use music in your congregation:

  • Consider giving children or youth a hymnal upon baptism or confirmation.
  • You can tell if you’re getting into ruts with your music if there is one or more section of pages whose edges are very well used or smudgy from hands.
  • Always use a song from the global church in every service, as a reminder that we have a global church, and a prompt that the way we live in the world is different.
  • Congregants are often more moved by songs than the sermon. Music moves words close to the heart and soul.

Work on a new song collection begins in earnest in early 2016. The new hymnal project organizers are soliciting applications for paid staff (full and part time), and volunteers.

Anyone who is an active member of a Mennonite Church Canada or Mennonite Church USA congregation can apply to be on the hymnal committee. In addition to a short application, those applying to be on the hymnal committee must provide three references, including one pastoral reference. To apply or get more information, click here. To read the complete news release on the project, check here.

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#project606

 If you’re on Twitter, you can help spread the word with this ready-made Tweet:

Want to be part of shaping what Mennonites sing?@MennoMedia staff are working on it! Site goes live Jan 1. Watch for more on #project606.

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Have you ever wondered, are all Mennonites good singers??

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In addition to his EMU course load, Kenneth Nafziger is artistic director and conductor of the annual Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival (Harrisonburg, Va.), and of Winchester Musica Viva (in Winchester, Va.). He was music editor of ‘Hymnal: A Worship Book’ (1992), editor of its accompaniment handbook, and assistant to the editor of ‘Sing the Journey’ (2005) and ‘Sing the Story’ (2007). He is active in the United States and Canada as a guest conductor, workshop leader and clinician. He co-authored a book ‘Singing, a Mennonite Voice’, which was released in 2001. For more information on Ken go to his personal web page.