Hymn singers want to know: what’s No. 1?

Image of the new Voices Together hymnal. Voices Together

With a new Mennonite hymnal about to roll off the press, people have questions about numbers.

What’s No. 1? What will “606” be now?

Planners have some answers as Voices Together, the hymnal for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, nears publication.

The Mennonite Worship and Song Committee editorial team has assigned the roughly 750 songs across the table of contents, according to a July 30 press release.

“The first hymn among the hundreds found in a hymnal shouldn’t matter, but it does,” said Rebecca Slough, managing editor for the denominations’ last complete hymnal — Hymnal: A Worship Book — published in 1992.

The first selection in any hymnal “calls God’s people to sing, announces why we are gathered here, and sets the tone, rhythm and harmonies for the adventures in singing that shape the body of Christ we will become,” Slough said.

No. 1 in Voices Together will be “Summoned by the God Who Made Us,” a text by Sister Delores Dufner, a well-known hymn writer and member of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minn.

Paired with the hymn tune “Nettleton” (think “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”) the first verse celebrates the church’s foundational unity in Christ and calls God’s people to live in relationship:

Summoned by the God who made us / rich in our diversity, / gathered in the name of Jesus, / richer still in unity.

The refrain:

Let us bring the gifts that differ / and, in splendid, varied ways, / sing a new church into being, / one in faith and love and praise.

This tune was chosen for the variety of ways it can be led and accompanied. The Voices Together accompaniment edition will include multiple accompaniment options, ranging from folk instrument scorings to organ and brass.

Editorial committee members say the tune lends itself well to be led in the style of contemporary worship music or sung in parts a cappella.

General editor Bradley Kauffman said, “Hymnal-using Mennonites develop strong associations with numbers, and we are often asked, ‘What will be No. 1?’ In selecting Sister Delores’ text, we are drawn to how her prayer for the church may find immediate resonance with a versatile tune.”

From 606 to 118 to . . .

What about “Praise God from Whom,” the famous “606”? Even after its move to No. 118 in Hymnal: a Worship Book, it’s popularly known by its number in the 1969 Mennonite Hymnal.

The perennial favorite — whose tune is called “Dedication Anthem” — will be in the “Praising” section among the first hundred songs.

This song is titled “Praise God (Dedication Anthem)” in Voices Together.

“We weighed this decision carefully and listened to voices advocating for many different options,” Kauffman said. “Ultimately, we decided to give priority to sequencing songs, including this one, within the Voices Together table of contents structure.”

MennoMedia will release the complete list of songs included in Voices Together in late August and ship the various hymnal editions to congregations later this fall.

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