Hymnal delights at Glennon Heights

Apr 29, 2019 by

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It is not every day that I am able to nerd out with other hymnal enthusiasts, but that’s exactly what happened throughout the March 30 Faith & Life Forum at Glennon Heights Mennonite Church in Lakewood, Colo.

Lovers of church music from all over Mountain States Mennonite Conference gathered with representatives of the planning committee of Voices Together, the new hymnal being developed by MennoMedia. Our guests guided us through an exploration of music under consideration for the hymnal, interspersed with worship, discussions of language, instrumentation, the hymnal development process, worship resources and, yes, plenty of singing.

I came away from the weekend energized and excited for the new hymnal. Here are a few reasons why.

— Don’t worry: Many of our beloved favorites are returning. But there will be a wealth of new music to explore as well. As our guests explained, nobody will use 100 percent of the new hymnal, but they hope that there will be something in it for everybody.

— Tools in the toolbox: The hymnal will be full of written worship resources that can be used and adapted in creative ways for worship.

— Picture this: There will be a few works of visual art interspersed throughout the hymnal.

— Language matters: The committee is working hard to “use language that creates space for anyone who wishes to join in.” This means including songs in many languages, as well as aspiring to honor concerns about language that may marginalize. Take race and ethnicity, for example. Is darkness or “black” always identified with sin? Are positive alternatives included as well?

— A new understanding: I confess that I have considered a lot of contemporary worship music to be a monolith and dismissed it. But I was interested to learn that contemporary music can fit within all 12 categories in the new hymnal’s table of contents, including gathering, confessing faith, sending, etc.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway was that developing a new hymnal is no small task. The planning committee deserves a thousand tongues to sing appreciation for the thought, diligence, energy, prayerful consideration and time (mostly donated) going into this new exciting resource for our church.

Jeff Bontrager attends Glennon Heights Mennonite Church in Lakewood, Colo. This post first appeared in Zing!, the newsletter of Mountain States Mennonite Conference.

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