GOSHEN, Ind. — With the goal of uniting in harmony to bring peace to a troubled world, Goshen College’s Hymn Club will bring together students and community members to sing continuously through every verse of all 658 songs in Hymnal: A Worship Book.
A hymn marathon fundraiser will start at 7 p.m. Nov. 14 and go non-stop through late afternoon Nov. 16 in the Newcomer Center. Students, faculty, congregations and the wider public are invited to participate in this come-and-go event.
“We were in the [college dining hall], where all good ideas are born,” said Bobby Switzer, a senior from Berne and Hymn Club leader. “We thought, ‘If we’re going to do a big hymn sing, let’s go all in. Let’s go beyond singing just for the sake it. Let’s use it as an opportunity to spread peace in this world of violence.’ ”
With this goal in mind, the club decided to hold the hymn sing to collect donations for Christian Peacemaker Teams. Churches and individuals are invited to support by pledging per hymn. Congregations are also invited to host their own one-hour hymn sings in solidarity.
In addition to raising awareness about Christian peacemaking around the world, Hymn Club members hope the marathon will build community at home. It regularly invites the campus community to sing four-part hymns out of the blue Mennonite worship hymnal, sometimes attracting more than 200 people.
“Singing is such an integral part of our identity,” said Joelle Friesen, a sophomore from Normal, Ill., who is involved in Hymn Club. “When you sing, you’re unifying people.”
The club is reaching out to local congregations, both Mennonite and non-Mennonite, as well as churches around the country. Students in the club have already contacted 26 congregations in 11 states and hope to reach many more.
“We’re putting the word out there and letting the Spirit take the next step,” Switzer said.
This event isn’t the college’s first hymn marathon. In 2000, two students, Gabriel Hershberger and Ross Rhizal, organized a hymnal sing-through that lasted eight hours a day for five days during spring break.
In 2003 as the country prepared to go to war in Iraq, Adam Tice organized a 24-hour hymnal-a-thon that took place in Rieth Recital Hall. The singers took hourlong shifts and sang anything they wanted rather than going straight through the hymnal. Large numbers of people attended the hymn sing, which was featured on NBC Nightly News.
This year’s hymn sing is perhaps the most ambitious yet, with students and community members expected to sing for about 48 hours. Hymn Club members have signed up for hourlong shifts to ensure that each voice part is represented in all 658 songs — about 13 songs per hour.
Congregations and individuals interested in participating are encouraged to stop by the hymn sing marathon as they are able. Donations should be made payable to Goshen College with CPT in the memo line.