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 VoicesTogetherHymnal.org.

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 LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

Creating a hymnal cover

Designers, editors, and marketers weigh in on Voices Together process

First impressions are important. A great book cover catches your eye in three seconds and you pick it up to read further or you move on.

As people who sing to articulate our faith, Mennonites care a lot about the cover of their hymnals, as hymnals are one of the ways that Mennonites talk about faith.

A team of designers, editors, and marketers from MennoMedia worked for months to develop a cover for the new Voices Together hymnal, and we felt convicted to craft something that would thoughtfully reflect who we are.

In the week since we have unveiled the Voices Together cover, we have received so much support for the design (thank you!) and a number have also asked about the thought that went into the development process.

Here is a look at some of the considerations that went into the Voices Together cover:

Durability: We knew we needed to find something to stand up to heavy repeated use over decades. In some congregations the Voices Together pew edition will be picked up and handled multiple times each week. Therefore we wanted to find a color and cover material that would wear well, something that would hold up to smudgy fingers, to occasionally being dropped, and to being carted around within congregations.

Previous hymnals and supplements

Color choice: Our first attempts to choose a color focused on colors that could be distinguished from the previous four volumes. We tested out ideas with various groups of people in the church. More than 900 people contributed to a cover survey we posted earlier this year on Facebook, and burgundy and charcoal gray rose to the top. However, these colors did not generate any cohesive excitement.

Some shades of red or burgundy looked too much like the 1969 hymnal, some shades looked too orange, and some shades already looked dated. Could a brighter red also be interpreted as placing a lot of emphasis on the blood of Christ and not enough on the love of God?

When we looked at shades of black some felt it would be too easily confused with pew Bibles, and also look like an older hymnal and not something brand new for 2020 and beyond. And the grays just did not generate excitement.

Blue? Too much like Hymnal: A Worship Book unless we went with a lighter blue, but that wouldn’t wear well.

When we reintroduced purple as an option it seemed that everyone was enthralled. There were some hesitations that it would be too similar to Sing the Story supplement but the overall positive response out-weighed that concern.

Purple works well for a hymnal because it is both a vibrant color and it connects well with the liturgical year. Churches all over the world often drape the cross in purple during Lent. During Advent, many congregations light purple candles. Jesus is sometimes pictured with a purple sash to signify royalty.

The brightness of this purple has a fresh look that makes this new hymnal stand out from past ones. Culturally, purple has associations with royalty, majesty, and the kingdom of God.

Fonts: The two fonts on the cover are Palatino (Voices) and Scriptina (Together). These fonts speak to our solid tradition in the Mennonite Church and the overlapping and inbreaking of fresh inspiration. Voices Together will contain hymns foundational to Mennonites, new expressions of praise, as well as those songs and hymns that have emerged in the last decades. The mixture of old and new fonts on the cover showcases this intermingling to create something fresh.

Dove symbol: The Mennonite Hymnal (1969) has a small crown debossed in the top right. Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992, copublished with Brethren Press), has a lamb in a briar, in blue foil. What kind of symbol, if any, should be on a new worship and song collection for the church? The dove was chosen to represent the gospel of peace and carrying Jesus’ message around the world. The dove also represents the Holy Spirit, enlivening our worship and empowering us to follow Jesus. The circle can represent wholeness, community, the oneness of God, and Jesus as light of the world.

Font color: We evaluated various colors for the fonts that you see on the cover and determined that gold works well with the purple background. The gold foil follows the same font color as in some of older hymnals, such as The Mennonite Hymnal (1969), Church Hymnal (1927), and Church and Sunday School Hymnal (1902).

Full package: The titles of previous Mennonite hymnals have emphasized the notes on the page rather than what we do in worship: raise our voices to God together. Worship is about God—a time set apart for honoring God. And it’s in worship where we as the church unite through song. As one person wrote on Facebook this week, “In an increasingly diverse church–theologically, racially, economically—Voices Together  makes a theological statement: We are in this together. Our existence is not about the individual but about the whole; a whole that is held in Divine Love. Worship of the Divine comes out of this fundamental reality: We are One.”

Staff contributing to this blog post:
Amy Gingerich, publisher and executive director
Merrill Miller, senior designer
Bradley Kauffman, Voices Together general editor

All contributions that MennoMedia receives for Voices Together development costs are being doubled, up to $100,000 in the U.S. by Everence and MCC U.S. and up to $15,000 in Canada by a family foundation in Ontario, from now until Dec. 31, 2018. Read more here about the Voices Together, Giving Together campaign and consider a pledge at www.VoicesTogetherHymnal.com

Mennonites Accepting Worship and Song Submissions and Recommendations for New Hymnal

News Release:

Mennonites Accepting Worship and Song Submissions and Recommendations for New Hymnal

Submissions open until December 31, 2017

HARRISONBURG, Va.—What songs connect you to God and your community, and empower you to serve? What songs do you turn to in joyful or difficult times? What are your heart songs?

These are questions the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee is asking, inviting Mennonites to fill out a survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MWSC_Heart_Song as it embarks on a listening and study phase toward developing a new hymnal collection, to be released in 2020.

“We want to hear from people across the church about the music and worship practices that sustain them,” said Project Director Bradley Kauffman. “We are developing intentional ways of listening, and are asking what existing content has the durability to enhance worship in coming decades.”

The new worship and song collection is being designed to succeed Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992), and its supplements Sing the Journey (2005), and Sing the Story (2007). This new collection will take into account the breadth of the Mennonite Church, the diverse ways Mennonites sing and worship, and will be available in bound and digital formats, along with an accompaniment volume. The collection is to be owned by, and available throughout the denominations. The survey is open to everyone who has specific ideas for a new collection. Those filling out the survey can recommend songs from existing Mennonite collections and beyond for inclusion in the new collection. The survey will remain open throughout 2017.

Another important element is a call for new and original content. Authors, songwriters, composers, and artists can submit their original work online at http://mennoniteworshipandsongcollection.org. This online submissions portal will be active throughout 2017.

The committee hopes the portal will draw a diversity of material that creatively serves a broad spectrum of worshipers. Artists are invited to submit visual elements, too, as the committee considers ways various media enhance worship. The new worship and song collection will be published by Herald Press, the book imprint of MennoMedia as the denominational publisher for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

“We anticipate receiving thousands of submissions—songs, hymn texts, tunes, worship resources, orders of worship, ritual actions, and visual images—for our committee to review,” Kauffman added. “We hope to see a lot of interest among Anabaptist and Mennonite contributors as well as ecumenical sources.”

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 LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.