A new appliance comes with a manual filled with tips on how to set it up, how to use it and how to get the maximum benefit out of the new purchase.
The new Voices Together hymnal is no different. The team behind its creation has created a variety of online resources to help congregations introduce it and get the most out of it.
“Adopting a new hymnal can be an exciting but hard process,” said Voices Together committee member Anneli Loepp Thiessen of Ottawa, Ont. “We want to help churches adopt it in a way that is thorough, shows care for all members of the congregation and helps make the process as smooth as possible.”
The resources the committee has created “will help make the process less overwhelming and enable congregations to introduce it in a way that helps them think about the how and why of worship,” added Katie Graber, Voices Together intercultural worship chair, of Columbus, Ohio.
The free resources include a guide to adopting the new hymnal — what’s in it, where the songs come from, what images for God it uses, how to use the indexes and how to start using it in worship.
There’s also a guide for dedicating the new hymnal, including Scripture texts, prayers and sermon suggestions, along with ideas for visuals.
Other resources include a five-session congregational curriculum about the hymnal, a four-session worship leader curriculum and a guide to contemporary worship music.
A unique resource is “Show Strength,” designed to help congregations decide what to do about songs in the hymnal if their creators are implicated in sexual misconduct or abuse.
That resource grew out of the decision by the committee to remove songs by hymn writer and composer David Hass, following credible accusations of sexual abuse and spiritual manipulation.
It offers a survivor-centered perspective for the process, said Loepp Thiessen, noting it can help a congregation “have a discussion about removing the song, give a framework for making that decision and how to think through the emotions of deleting a much-loved song.”
To date, many of these resources are undiscovered. This is partly because Voices Together is the first hymnal launched for Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA during the Internet age; some people may not be aware of all the resources available online.
Another factor is the pandemic, which prevented congregations from gathering in person for a long time. Many churches have received their hymnals but haven’t used them.
“It can be a challenge if churches just start using it without conversations with their congregations, without talking about what worship will look or sound like with the new hymnal,” Graber said. “We want people to know about these resources.”
The first print run of 45,000 hymnals is almost sold out, according to Amy Gingerich, executive director of MennoMedia. A second run of 7,500 will be printed soon.
Resources can be found at voicestogetherhymnal.org.