Voices Together Summer Sampler

by Katie Graber and Sarah Johnson

The third and final Voices Together sampler appears in the Spring 2019 issue of Leader Magazine (available from MennoMedia) and will be featured at the MC USA Convention in Kansas City and the MC Canada Gathering in Abbotsford. It includes some revisions of familiar songs and new items spanning many styles, geographic locations, and historical eras.

1. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

This HYMN TO JOY tune comes from the closing choral movement of Beethoven’s ninth and final symphony (here is an excerpt). The version presented here revives Beethoven’s syncopation in the last line. The text has seen minor changes throughout its history; according to the Hymnal Companion, the 1992 Hymnal: A Worship Book updated the text of stanza 4 from “Father-love is reigning o’er us, brother-love binds man to man” (as it appeared in Mennonite Hymnal, 1969) to “Love divine is reigning o’er us, leading us with mercy’s hand.”

2. Uyai Mose

This Shona song from Zimbabwe has become ecumenically popular in North America. Many Mennonites learned it at World Conference gatherings; it was included in songbooks for Zimbabwe in 2003 and Paraguay in 2009. This video shows how the words and music could be introduced to a congregation.

3. Lord, You Are Good

This energetic song by Israel Houghton is sung frequently at Calvary Community Church, the largest congregation in Mennonite Church USA.

4. Flow To You

This can be sung in various styles. It was written by Lynn DeShazo, and in this recording she presents it with transparent accompaniment. Some other groups sing it “as recorded by Bishop Paul S. Morton,” as in this video, with a larger band and gospel choir.

5. In The Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful

This song comes from the Taize community in France, an ecumenical Christian monastery that writes and publishes its own music. The songs are usually short and cyclic, and will be repeated for several minutes during prayer services. “In the Lord I’ll be Ever Thankful” was sung at the 2015 Mennonite World Conference in Harrisburg, providing opportunity to sing the same text in many languages. Here it is presented in Spanish and English, which can be alternated or repeated as desired.

6. The Love of God

Appearing in the 1969 Mennonite Hymnal and 2005 Sing the Journey, this song is included here with minor revisions that clarify the meaning of the text. For example, “the guilty pair,” which rather enigmatically referred to Adam and Eve, now becomes “the wandering child.” In addition, the updated text ascription at the bottom of the page reflects the history of the third stanza; for more information, see Ken Nafziger’s 2013 article in The Hymn that describes its roots in a poem by a medieval Jewish Rabbi and the Quran.

7. Na nzela na lola (As Long as We Follow)

This Lingala song, also known as “Malembe,” is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It may be familiar to some from 2015 Mennonite World Conference in Harrisburg and other North American Mennonite gatherings. This teaching video models pronunciation and shows one way a congregation could learn and sing it.

8. This Is God’s Wondrous World

Also known as “This Is My Father’s World,” this text revision is used in several recently published denominational hymnals. The change to “God’s wondrous world” highlights the song’s focus on creation imagery rather than on humans’ relationship with a loving parent. The second half of stanza two is a portion of the author’s original text not often included in hymnals.

9. When at Creation’s Dawn

Mennonite composer Jim Clemens traces the origin of this hymn to the release of Hymnal: A Worship Book. Clemens composed a tune in 10.10.10.10 meter as an alternative to ENGLEBERG/When in our Music God is glorified. He subsequently sent the tune to Mennonite poet Jean Janzen with the invitation to write a new text, hoping their collaboration might find an audience. Janzen responded by writing “When at Creation’s Dawn.” When Clemens received her work, his interest in the nuances of the text prompted him to compose a wholly new tune for Janzen’s words. It eventually took the form of a choral composition published by Shawnee press. Now Clemens has adapted the choral work for Voices Together, illustrating the circuitous paths along which the creative impulse can lead us.

10. We Dream of a Turning

These words, written by Voices Together text editor Adam Tice, are paired with a common Scottish folk tune. It reflects on Isaiah’s vision of a peaceable relationship between all created things — humans and other animals living in harmony. This song can be led first by solo voice, with the congregation joining at the first refrain. With the help of an accompanist and brief instrumental interludes, it can begin slowly and increase in speed, culminating in a raucous final stanza.

11. With Astonishment, Fear, and Wonder

This medieval tune has been recorded by many early music ensembles (here is one example). It is paired with a modern text that gives a new perspective to the triumphal entry story. It can also fit other worship themes about walking with Jesus more metaphorically.

12. Tree of Life

This song is included in numerous contemporary hymnals and has been recorded in many settings (here is an example with organ accompaniment). Although it has many additional stanzas, it is commonly published with the five included here. The rich imagery of death and new life may at first seem most appropriate for Easter, but it is important to celebrate these ideas year round.

13. How Can We Worship Caesar’s Cross

This text, by Voices Together Worship Resources Editor Sarah Johnson, reflects on the cross and the complex layers of meaning that surround its use as a central symbol in the Christian tradition in the past and present.

14. Sharing Paschal Bread and Wine

The stanzas of this song tell the stories from the Passover meal to crucifixion. They are based on the following scriptures: st. 1. betrayal (Matt. 26:20-25); st. 2. foretelling of denial (Matt. 26:31, 33-35); st. 3. unshared vigil (Matt. 26:36-41); st. 4. praying (Matt. 26:42-45); st. 5. arrest (Matt. 26:47-50); st. 6. desertion (Mark 14:48-50); st. 7. denial (Luke 22:54-62); st. 8. the cross (Luke 23:33-34, 44-46).

15. The Spirit Is a Dove

While the author and composer of this piece frequently collaborate quite closely, the individual elements of “The Spirit is a Dove/MARIANNE” emerged independently. Sitting on a bus together during a Hymn Society annual conference, Adam Tice asked Sally Ann Morris if she had any “orphan” tunes in need of a text. She hummed this tune, and Tice immediately began singing it with “The Spirit is a Dove.” The text had originally been written with TERRA BEATA in mind.

16. Could It Be That God Is Singing

Mennonite poet Becca J.R. Lachmann wrote the first version of this text while studying with composer Alice Parker. The tune is most commonly associated with the Southern Harmony text “Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal.”

17. Touch That Soothes and Heals

In the history of hymn writing and still today, it is common for authors and composers to work separately: a composer will write a tune and then look for a text to fit it, and vice versa. Hymnal compilers are often free to match music they feel best suits the words. “Touch that Soothes and Heals” has been published in several recent song collections, though not with this tune. This tune has previously been published with the text “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy.”

18. All Who Are Thirsty

This song has been recorded by multiple artists; videos such as this one are readily available online. It has an accessible refrain that can be taught orally.

19. Ososo (Come Now, O Prince of Peace)

Voices Together committee member SaeJin Lee states that this song embodies the Korean concept of han. Han is an internalized feeling of longing and grief resulting from unresolved wrong or brokenness. It can arise both from contexts of personal and systematic sin and oppression, and it especially represents the Korean church’s deep longing for the reunification of Korea. In the case of “Ososo,” han is expressed through the elongated mournful melody and the words of supplication.

20. I Will Sing With You

This song about unity and humility has been sung at MC USA conventions and by Mennonite choirs. This recording by Mennonite writer/composer Nathan Grieser gives an example of how it can be sung with guitar; the Voices Together accompaniment score (available for download) includes a piano version.

21. Word and Sign

All text and tune submissions to Voices Together were first reviewed anonymously by the committee. Thus, when music editor Benjamin Bergey decided to compose a tune for this text, he did not realize it had been written by his colleague. When the other members of the committee reviewed the pair together, they also did not know its origin. This evocative and impressionistic song can be repeated or sung in alternation with spoken prayers, while celebrating communion, or during rituals of anointing.

22. You Call Me Out upon the Waters (Tu voz me llama a las aguas)

Also known as “Oceans,” this Hillsong United song is popular around the world. It has been recorded in many different languages — here are just a few examples in Hungarian, French, Italian, Polish, and Korean Sign Language. In Voices Together surveys, it has also been named as a heart song in Spanish- and English-speaking Mennonite congregations from Vancouver to U.S. southern states.

23. As I Rise

Singers may be familiar with a portion of the 5th-century Prayer of St. Patrick through Hymnal: A Worship Book #442 Christ Be With Me. The song “As I Rise” is also based on this prayer, adding imagery from another section: “I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me.”

24. Dans nos obscurites

This short, cyclic song comes from the Taize community. In North America, Taize songs are often led with many instrumentalists and no song leader. At the Taize community in France there is an emphasis on simplicity and, apart from the weekly Sunday celebration of the resurrection, songs are accompanied on guitar or keyboard set to a guitar sound. In both locations, worshippers are invited to sing, pray, or be silent.

25. Be Thou My Vision

This song has many historical versions from Old Irish to modern English, and the original poem consisted of far more stanzas than any Mennonite hymnal has included. Some pacifists have objected to militaristic imagery of phrases such as “High King of heaven, when victory is won.” The translation included here uses “True Light of heaven” instead, which emphasizes the “Sun” metaphor in the following line.

26. I Bind My Heart This Tide

Archaic language can be beautiful and meaningful, or it can be incomprehensible. The text updates in this song reflect the fact that words like “thralldom” have fallen from use in recent decades.

27. When Pain or Sorrow

This song avoids the platitudes and promises that can heighten despair in times of suffering. Instead, it offers a promise that community members can make to one another: “when your hope is gone and you can’t hold on, we will hold on to you.” While it is common for hymns and songs to express the commitment of individuals to God and to the community, this song gives communities a way to express their support for individuals in times of hardship and suffering.

28. We Are People of God’s Peace

This text, based on Menno Simons’ writings, aligns the singing community with God’s way of peace. The upbeat tune may give the impression that peacemaking is something we are satisfied to have successfully accomplished. The Voices Together committee generated an additional, more aspirational stanza, drawn from Simons’ writings to round out the text. Here in the (newly added) second verse, we hear Simons foreground our need for grace as fallible conduits of God’s love.

29. Touch The Earth Lightly

The Voices Together committee has heard from numerous surveys and conversations that Mennonites are reaching for more creation care songs. This gentle tune and reflective text call us to reverent stewardship of God’s creation.

30. We, Your People Sing Your Praises

Rebecca Mosley, a Mennonite Central Committee worker in Botswana and Tanzania, and Josephine Munyeli, a peace worker from Rwanda, collaborated on this text. They wrote the English and French stanzas for a conference on peacemaking in the Great Lakes region of Africa. They set the text to a tune common across East Africa since at least the mid-20th century. Since the publication of this sampler, Rebecca received an email from a contact in Japan informing her that the tune is ENDSLEIGH by 19th-century writer Salvatore Ferreti. It is indeed nearly identical, though its oral transmission through East Africa has changed the melody and harmonies slightly.

31. Peace Be With You in Many Languages — Pew Edition

More than 25 languages are spoken in worship in Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. This is the only song or worship resource that aspires to integrate all languages together. If a language used in worship in your church or conference is still missing, please be in touch with KatieG@MennoMedia.org

32. Peace Be With You in Many Languages — Worship Leader Edition entry

This is a guide to using #31, the Peace in many languages resource. Resources #32 will be included in the Voices Together Worship Leader Edition, a guide to planning worship that includes all spoken worship resources and visual art from the hymnal, along with suggestions for how to use and adapt these resources; additional resources for leaders for practices like baptism, communion, child blessing, marriage, and funerals; practical suggestions for many aspects of worship, including ideas for how to use projection, engage children, and pray a congregational prayer; and theological grounding in short introductions to topics like choosing Scripture for worship, the seasons and days of the Christian year, and worship and culture.

The Worship Leader Edition is for everyone involved in planning and leading worship, in public and behind the scenes–musicians, pastors, worship leaders, worship committees, technicians, visual artists, and more. It celebrates diverse expressions of worship–formal and informal, structured and spontaneous–and encourages thoughtful and Spirit-led worship.

As this entry explains, #31 can be integrated with various acts of worship and framed in different ways. It can also be used to create a responsive reading or to share peace with one another. Communities may also choose to learn different languages for different reasons.

33. Jesus Calls Us

Joanna Harader, the writer of this resource, is a pastor at Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, Kansas. Her words for worship can be found at spaciousfaith.com

34. Open Your Ears

This prayer was written by Carol Penner, a professor at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. Her prayers can be found at leadinginworship.com

35. For Failing To Love

This responsive prayer of confession invites pauses or longer silences for reflection. Robust words assuring the community of God’s grace and forgiveness should follow, such as those in #36.

36. Praise to God, Who Has Given Us Life

These words of assurance are borrowed from the New Zealand Prayer Book, created in 1988 by the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to serve the needs of New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Island. The book reflects the cultural diversity of the region, including passages in the Maori, Fijian, Tongan, and English languages. It is available online.

37. May the Love which Overcomes

God is Love. This versatile blessing may be offered as assurance of grace following confession, an invitation to share the peace with one another, or a sending benediction.

38. Gardener God

Pilgram Marpeck was a sixteenth century Anabaptist leader. The gardening imagery in this prayer is fitting for the summer months.

39. O God, Listening To Us Here

In addition to singing with Christians around the world, we also join our voices in prayer. This prayer from the church in Ghana celebrates our global family in faith and our unity in prayer, even when our prayers seem strange to one another.

40. Jesus Taught His Disciples To Pray

Alissa Bender is a pastor at Hamilton Mennonite Church in Ontario. This prayer, based on the Prayer Jesus Taught, was originally published in the MennoMedia bulletin series.

41. Listening God

Offering a congregational prayer is a beautiful opportunity to hold those in need in the community and the world in God’s presence. It can also be a challenge for worship leaders who are less comfortable praying extemporaneously, especially in response to a time of sharing. For this reason, we have heard that #720 in Hymnal: A Worship Book has been a particularly valuable resource. This lightly adapted version includes the addition of a prayer for the earth and all creatures. Leaders may also choose to name specifics in each section prior to the concluding line that begins, “We pray for…”

42. Prayer for Camps and Retreats

Voices Together will include a handful of resources for contexts apart from congregational worship, including other areas of congregational life such as meals and meetings, and other types of worshiping communities such as schools, churches, and retirement communities. This prayer for camps and retreats was written by committee member Anneli Loepp Thiessen, who has worked at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp and is now the director for Ontario Mennonite Music Camp. It could be used as part of an evening prayer practice at camps, inviting campers to share where they heard, saw, and felt God throughout the day. This prayer could also be used in congregations to welcome campers home.

43. Water Prayer

The committee working on worship resources for central practices (Heidi Miller, Irma Fast Dueck, Isaac Villegas, Sarah Kathleen Johnson, and Adam Tice) has been collaborating with writers across Canada and the United States to shape worship resources for practices that are central to our identity as Christians and Anabaptists: baptism, communion, footwashing, child blessing, marriage, healing, funerals, church membership, and church leadership. These resources have been tested in congregations and reviewed by a broad range of Mennonite pastors and theologians as well as ecumenical partners.

This water prayer tells the story of our faith through the image of water. It would be appropriate in a baptism service, at a service that includes a reaffirmation of baptismal commitments, or it could be included in outdoor worship near a body of water. Water may be poured into a basin during this prayer.

44. Communion with Community Sharing

The central practices committee (see #43) has developed six distinct expressions of communion that suit different occasions, communities, and modes of participation. The resource included here is a flexible and informal structure for communion that invites reflection from the gathered community. Leaders may take this as a loose structure and speak through the service spontaneously. Extemporaneous prayer may be integrated throughout. This form of communion may be most fitting in smaller congregations and retreat settings. In larger gatherings, the questions could invite reflective silence or sharing words or short phrases.

45. I Believe in God Almighty

This interpretation of the Apostles’ Creed written by Jose Luis Casal invites reflection on the stories of our faith from the perspective of immigration. It was recommended to the Worship Resources Committee by a group of Mennonite pastors who serve congregations who worship in languages other than or in addition to English in the Kitchener Waterloo area.

46. Convert Us, Jesus the Persecuted

The Revised Common Lectionary readings in the summer months do not connect the epistle to the gospel and instead read through the excerpts letters, including Galatians and Colossians, semi-continuously in order to hear them on their own terms. This prayer centered on the Apostle Paul could be fitting in congregations reading or preaching through the epistle readings.

47. May the Blessing of God Give Us Strength for the Journey

This Trinitarian blessing could conclude a worship gathering on many occasions. It may be an especially good fit alongside song #11 “With Astonishment, Fear, and Wonder.”

48. In Our Concerns and in Our Choices

Drawing inspiration from the resources of the Iona Community in Scotland, this sending blessing firmly declares God’s presence with us as we go. The repeated response can be taught by ear and indicated with a gesture so this resource can be used without being printed.

Official comments policy for users of Mennonite Church USA’s websites and other social networking tools. We reserve the right to remove any comment that violates this policy.

  • The purpose of comments is to engage in constructive dialogue.
  • Please provide your own full name.
  • Be respectful. If you’re offering criticism, focus on others’ ideas — not their motives, person, character or faith. Consider the log in your own eye before pressing ‘Enter.’

Comments are moderated. Comments with any content that is deemed obscene, libelous, defamatory or hateful toward an individual or group will not be approved. Comments will remain open for 10 days.


2 thoughts on “Voices Together Summer Sampler

  1. Regarding “As I Rise,” let me suggest that the “Prayer of St. Patrick” is extremely unlikely to go back to Patrick’s time. I am hopeful that #441 and #442 in Hymnal: A Worship Book will be retained! #442 is our normal closing song, and #441 (with #442) the hymn we sing near St. Patrick’s day (and sometimes Trinity Sunday).

  2. So pleased that “The Love of God” is included with Ken Nafzinger’s background on stanza 3!

Comments are closed.