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 LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.