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

New song collection project director announced


Bradley Kauffman, 2016

May 5, 2016
News release

New song collection project director announced

Bradley Kauffman brings passion for Anabaptist theology, music, and worship

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—Bradley Kauffman of Cincinnati, Ohio, has been named project director for the new song collection for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. The print version is slated for release in 2020. He will perform work on a contract basis before assuming a full-time staff position on July 5.

Kauffman earned a bachelor of arts in music education at Goshen College in 1996 and completed a master of arts in choral conducting at the University of Iowa in 2002.

“Bradley’s passion for the church and his keen interest in the formative role of music in our collective worship made him a very good fit for this position,” said Terry Shue, director of leadership development for Mennonite Church USA and a member of the song collection steering committee.

Kauffman has taught music in three Mennonite schools. From 2007 to 2015, he was a choral and instrumental music instructor at Hesston (Kan.) College. From 2005 to 2007, he directed instrumental music at Bethany Christian Schools, Goshen, Ind. At Iowa Mennonite School in Kalona, Iowa, he was vocal and instrumental music instructor from 1997–2005.

He has led Music Week at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Pennsylvania two years, and across the church has been active in congregational musical life including hymn leading, guitar playing, serving as worship committee member and conducting church choirs. He has held roles in professional and community choirs singing and conducting. He studied under Dr. Timothy Stalter at the University of Iowa and also composer/conductor Alice Parker. At Goshen, he studied conducting and church music with Doyle Preheim. Kauffman also has experience arranging, composing, and writing, and plays guitar and hand drums.

“My faith and professional life are each deeply formed by Mennonite hymnody,” Kauffman reflected regarding his desire to direct the project. He used Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992) as a textbook in conducting classes at Hesston College and noted it has served the denomination well. “Yet I resonate with the movement to renew and expand the denominational canon for the twenty-first century church,” he stated.

The project director is responsible for managing all aspects of the project, and will oversee a part-time project assistant, various committees, and freelance editors and designers. Kauffman will be responsible to a six-member steering committee: two from MennoMedia, Russ Eanes and Amy Gingerich; two from Mennonite Church USA, Terry Shue and Nicole Francisco Bailey; and two from Mennonite Church Canada, Karen Martens Zimmerly and Irma Fast Dueck.

Karen Martens Zimmerly, executive minister for formation and pastoral leadership for Mennonite Church Canada noted, “Through his previous employment and volunteer work, Bradley is well connected to many faith communities across Mennonite Church USA. I look forward to Bradley’s visits to Canada so that he becomes familiar with the rich diversity of congregations and area churches across Mennonite Church Canada.”

Kauffman recalls very early memories of experiencing the impact of Mennonite congregational singing. “I remember feeling enveloped in warmth, love, and interconnectedness. I have been surrounded by Anabaptist theology, music, and worship my whole life,” he remembers. This impact deepened as Kauffman grew in his spiritual journey and life experiences.

Kauffman said he brings “passion for preserving and expanding a denominational canon in ways that are theologically and artistically nourishing. I have done a lot of thinking, leading, and writing around the topic, and am energized by the prospect of leading this incredible project.”

Shue commented, “This is an opportunity to build upon the musical legacy that has long been a part of the Mennonite Church, while giving musical voice and forward leaning into the Church God is calling us to become.”

MennoMedia Executive Director Russ Eanes was especially happy with the large number of applications the steering committee received for staff and committee work, especially from younger adults. “It has been overwhelming. It shows the deep interest and energy that this project has for the whole church and we are very pleased about the experience and credibility that Bradley will bring to lead it.”

Most recently Kauffman has worked as full time stay-at-home parent; his wife, Renee Kanagy, serves as pastor of Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship; he will work from their home in Cincinnati.

MennoMedia Staff

High resolution photos available.
For more information on this press release:

Melodie Davis
News manager


Name That Tune

It’s early on a weekday morning and here I am working away with a pitch pipe in one hand and a hymnal in another. My desk is littered with music—hymnals and other songbooks (going back to the 1970s Sing and Rejoice), children’s albums, and even a few CDs.


It’s time once again to choose Vacation Bible School music at MennoMedia.

Have I mentioned before that I love my job? Yep, this is one of the seriously fun parts of it.

Before I know it, it’s time to log into a Skype call and talk about the possibilities.

We have a new marketing team member and when he learns that we’re going to actually sing in this call, he seems a bit concerned. Really?!

I admit that I was initially a bit skeptical as well. While I love music, I do not consider myself to be a gifted musician or a singer. Yes, I took piano lessons as a child. The lessons taught me how to read music, but that was eons ago and I do not own a piano now. (The pitch pipe has to suffice.) Yes, I sang in my high school choir (shout out to Iowa Mennonite School) but it was a small school and lots of us did (read: were strongly encouraged by our parents to do so). And yes, I enjoy singing in church, but I don’t consider myself to be one to handily find the harmony and join right in. I prefer to stand near a strong alto and follow along.

And yet, for these last nine years, I have had the privilege of helping choose music for our children’s Sunday school or Vacation Bible School curricula.


Here’s the recipe that we at MennoMedia use to choose music for our children’s curricula:

  1. Assemble a team of writers. Our children’s materials are written by contract writers from across Canada and the U.S. Right now we are working on music for 2015 VBS materials. (2014 materials are available for sale here.) Managing Editor Mary Ann Weber ably coordinates our VBS materials and assembles the writing teams. The 2015 team hails from Ohio Mennonite Conference, and they met together over a weekend in November to outline the sessions. They discussed how to tell the stories, what crafts and games might be included, and gave suggestions for music to go along with the theme.
  2. Review the first round of suggestions: Mary Ann culls together music suggestions from the writers, adds some more of her own, and invites a small team from within MennoMedia to review the music. This is when staff shut the door or find a quiet spot and sing or hum songs to themselves in order to learn them. Does a song work for kids? Is it “sing-a-long-able”? Does it work theologically with the VBS theme? In the phone meetings we often hear things like, “I don’t think this song is right, but it reminds me of another song that goes like this …” And then the person talking shares a song on the phone. (We use the phone or Skype because our staff is dispersed. For this morning’s VBS meeting we were participating in Virginia, Indiana, and Ohio.) “Oh yes, I’ve heard that one before” is often said by another person, who then joins in the song.
  3. Think about balance: It’s always important to think about balance in assembling a CD of songs. With VBS materials, congregations expect peppy songs. But it’s also good to have a song in a minor key or a slower song to provide some relief. It’s good to have songs that will appeal to the youngest children as well as the oldest. It’s good to have songs in languages other than English. It’s good to have songs that describe God in a variety of ways. It’s good to have old favorites and brand new songs as well. It’s good to make sure you don’t have the same song two years in a row. Trust me, it takes time to try and get the right balance.
  4. Hire a CD coordinator: We at MennoMedia determine the music, then we hire someone to produce the CD for us. Typically this is someone from one of our churches. We listen to rough cuts and give feedback or request changes. We might make suggestions for certain instruments or to have children sing a certain song, but mostly we allow the musicians to do their work—knowing we’ve done ours in singing to each other on the phone.

What’s your ideal VBS song? What songs can you remember from VBS or Sunday school as a child?

Picture of me 1
Amy Gingerich, editorial director

P.S. Click here for samples from our 2014 VBS CD. Plus, we’re having a VBS sale right now on Welcome! Give and Receive God’s Great Love, our 2014 VBS materials. Order now for 10% off the retail price!