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What songs will Mennonites sing?

   
 


Four-session study guide, The Heart of Mennonite Worship: Five Vital Rhythms

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Mennonite Church Canada/MennoMedia joint release
September 16, 2011
-Steve Shenk

WATERLOO, Ont. and HARRISONBURG, Va. — Congregations throughout Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA are being asked this fall, winter, and spring to keep track of all the songs they sing. Their research will help determine what the next collection of music for the church will look like.

What emerges might look like the current Hymnal: A Worship Book. Or it might be PowerPoint files. Or another emerging format. It might be all of the above.  The planners are calling the end product a “song collection.”

Who are the planners? They are the Bi-National Worship Council. The council, formed in 2009, is co-chaired by Dave Bergen of Mennonite Church Canada, Marlene Kropf of Mennonite Church USA, and Amy Gingerich of MennoMedia. Supporting the project is MennoMedia, which was formed from a merger in July between Mennonite Publishing Network and Third Way Media. It has offices in Waterloo, Ont. and Harrisonburg, Va.

The planners are asking questions like, “What kind of worship resources are needed for Mennonite congregations in the future” and “How is music used in worship?”

The Worship Council developed a four-session study guide, The Heart of Mennonite Worship: Five Vital Rhythms. The council encourages congregations to use the study guide sometime between September 2011 and April 2012.

The study guide can be ordered—for free—by calling 800-631-6535 in Canada or 800-245-7894 in the U.S.. It can be downloaded at no cost at http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/tiny/1573.

Congregations are also urged to participate in a survey that will let the planners know what they sing each week during an eight-month period. They can go to www.MennoMedia.org/worship and click on “survey.”

There are three easy ways to complete the survey:

  1. Fill it out online each week at http://www.mpn.net/worship/survey/complete/
  2. Go to http://www.mpn.net/worship/survey/ and follow the links to download a chart in Microsoft Word or PDF format to fill out and send in at the end of the survey period.
  3. Send worship bulletins to MennoMedia Song Survey at songsurvey@MennoMedia.org  or by regular mail to 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.

In July, delegates at the Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA national gatherings had a chance to respond to presentations on the song-collection project. They also listed their congregations’ “heart songs,” songs that have become beloved by their churches.

One delegate said his congregation is so diverse that what is a “heart song” for 60 percent is not for the other 40 percent.

Canadian delegates divided into groups for a discussion on worship and music. They reflected considerable diversity in styles of worship and tastes in music. Some noted that the diversity leads to hard feelings in churches. Other times the diversity brings richness to the worship experience.

Said one Canadian delegate, “Music brings the congregation together when people are willing to accept each other’s preferences.” 

One U.S. table group reported agreement on the importance of songs that focus on community rather than on the individual.

Amy Gingerich, co-chair of the Bi-National Worship Council and MennoMedia’s director of print media, said “Singing has become almost a sacrament for Mennonites. Our past hymnals have become books or prayer, and our song collections an entrance into how we experience God.

“As we contemplate how to meet the changing music needs of our churches,” she continued, “we want to hear from everyone so that our new song collection is something that brings us together as a body of believers united in worship.”

The current hymnal used by Mennonites and Church of the Brethren—Hymnal: A Worship Book—will be 20 years old in 2012. Two Mennonite supplements were added over the years: Sing the Journey and Sing the Story.

Added Gingerich: “A song collection is years in the making, and hearing from congregations is the right place to start as we seek to learn what songs have been embraced by our faith communities.”

MennoMedia is the publishing/production ministry of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.