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


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).


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.



 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.


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


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.

“Project 606” Mennonite song collection project aims for 2020 release

News Release

Application process for committee and staff opens January 1

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ontario—Looking for a way to use your musical and worship talents in the new year? Want to be part of shaping what Mennonites sing?

MennoMedia, in close partnership with Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, begins accepting applications for various committee and staff positions for a new Mennonite song collection on January 1, 2016.

This new song collection will take into account the breadth of the Mennonite Church, the diverse ways Mennonites sing and worship, and new digital technologies. It will replace Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992), and will likely include familiar songs from various previous hymnals, as well as new songs and worship resources.


The new song collection will be more than a printed hymnal, and will include an electronic version as well. Scheduled for release in 2020, the new project is being referred to as “Project 606.”

“The name ‘606’ is a natural for this project. That’s about how many hymns we want to have and that’s about how much we need to raise (in thousands) to fund it,” said Russ Eanes, executive director at MennoMedia. “Plus, there is a lot of ‘cultural identity’ around that number itself for many Mennonites. I’m amazed at the enthusiasm and energy that there is for this project, and I’ll be excited to see it come to fruition.”

Song committee applications are available for:

  • Project Director
  • Editorial Assistant
  • Music Editor
  • Text Editor
  • Worship Editor
  • Committee Member

The project director position is a full-time, salaried job for the duration of the project. The project director will be responsible for managing all aspects of this multi-component project, and will oversee a part-time project assistant, various committees, and freelance editors and designers. The part-time editorial assistant position is hourly, and this person will work closely with the project director.

In addition, a 10- to 12-member hymnal committee will be appointed to work closely with project staff. This volunteer committee will solicit and review music and texts, paying close attention to singability, theology, and clarity. Three people from this committee will serve in editorial roles—as the music editor, text editor, and worship editor—and will receive honoraria for their work.

Those applying to be on the committee must commit to at least three years of participation, and to attending at least three in-person meetings each year and additional video conferences as scheduled. All expenses incurred for travel or other project-related work will be borne by the publisher.

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.

“Beginning the process reminds me again that the song collections we create and use as a denomination are vitally important to both reflect our theological understandings of faith as well as shape the same for another generation,” said Terry Shue, director of leadership development for Mennonite Church USA.

Karen Martens Zimmerly, executive minister of formation and pastoral leadership for Mennonite Church Canada adds, “As the Mennonite Church in North America continues to grow in rich cultural diversity, congregational singing gives communal expression to the hope and the heart of faith that sustains and is able to transform us as a global people of God.”

The committee’s first meeting is projected to be in late summer or fall 2016. At the first meeting, the hymnal committee and editor will work together to craft a statement of theological principles and a statement of purpose to guide their work.

A six-member steering committee (two each from MennoMedia, Mennonite Church USA, and Mennonite Church Canada) will review all the applications at a meeting in Nashville in late March 2016.

Those who wish to apply or learn more should go to or


January 1, 2016          Application process opens

Spring 2016                Hymnal committee of 10 to 12 appointed, project director and                                           project assistant hired

Summer 2016             First meeting of the hymnal committee

Summer 2016             Song and text submission process opens

Spring 2017                Song and text submission process ends

Spring 2019                Committee work ends

Summer 2020             New hymnal and other products are released