Photo: Randall, Ellen and son Connor Stoesz met with Jennifer Schrock of Mennonite Creation Care Network at the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale. Randall is one […]
Photo: Staff and volunteers working on Voices Together. Photo provided by MennoMedia.
A stack of paper containing 780 songs and a binder of 320 worship resources greeted each member of the Voices Together committee when they arrived for their tenth and final committee meeting in early October.
In nine previous meetings, the committee had discussed content to include in Voices Together, the new worship and song collection for the Mennonite church. But this was the first time committee members saw selections all together. The committee spent five days of their meeting singing and worshiping through it, followed by two days further discussing the selections.
“Because all new songs and worship resources were anonymized in the first three years of our discussions, meeting 10 was the first time everyone saw who wrote the different pieces,” says general editor Bradley Kauffman. “Our work until now has been on computer screens, so it was momentous to be able to see and hold hard copies of each piece.”
At least one verse of each song that the committee plans to include in the new worship and song collection was sung while the group was together, meeting at Erb Street Mennonite Church in Waterloo, Ontario. All new songs were sung in full. Each worship resource was read in its entirety and works of visual art were viewed as a series.
“So much research and detail work come together to make just one page in Voices Together,” Kauffman says. “And for every song that’s here in the collection, I think of how many songs we looked at and set aside. I hold a lot of gratitude for the tremendous amount of work that has brought us to this place.”
The committee working on Voices Together has included 13 volunteers as well as Kauffman. A steering committee of staff from Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada and MennoMedia have also been part of the process.
“I have been so impressed with committee members’ thoughtfulness and willingness to listen to each other’s views,” says intercultural music editor Katie Graber of Ostrander, Ohio. “This collection is for a diverse church and not for any of us individually.”
The committee has now spent at least 50 days at in-person meetings between September 2016 and October 2019, with additional in-person meetings for subcommittees and editors. Over the last 12 months, the committee video conference platform has averaged 52 hours per month of activity.
“This is an incredible volunteer effort,” says Amy Gingerich, executive director of MennoMedia. “Their dedication to the church through this project will bless all of us in years and decades to come.”
Kauffman estimates the committee has screened about 10,000 pieces to make their selections. The committee is not yet releasing what songs or worship resources have been selected, pending full approval in the permissions process.
Voices Together will be published in fall 2020 by MennoMedia. To find out more, visit www.VoicesTogetherHymnal.org.
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