A fundraising website for the new song collection for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada has been launched at HymnalProject606.com.
The fundraising phase is called Project 606, so dubbed from the anthem version of “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,” affectionately known as “606” from its designation in the red 1969 Mennonite Hymnal.
The fundraising goal is $606,000. Funds are needed to help with development costs ahead of sales years.
MennoMedia is the agency taking leadership for the new hymnal. The project also anticipates a digital version of much of the music.
The 13-person song collection project committee will meet for the first time Sept. 22-25 in Harrisonburg, Va.
Of hymn “606,” Russ Eanes, MennoMedia’s executive director, notes he has been asked more than once, “When you do a new hymnal, can you put ‘606’ back in its place?”
The “606” song in a cappella form continues to inspire. On May 2, 2015, Garrison Keillor hosted his Prairie Home Companion radio program live from Goshen (Ind.) College. The show, which is broadcast nationally to an audience of 4 million, opened with the 1,000-member, mostly Mennonite audience’s a cappella rendition of “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” When the singing ended, Keillor said, “Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. You’re stunning me.”
In March, Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg sponsored a concert of the British a cappella music group VOCES8. Their mix of sacred and pop music entertains audiences all over the world. As is customary toward the end of the EMHS concert, the again mostly Mennonite audience sang “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” in a cappella for VOCES8. As Eanes related, VOCES8 listened on stage in quiet appreciation. When the echoes of the final “amen” receded, VOCES8 gave the crowd a loud ovation.
One member of the group, Ollie Vincent, was in tears. He later explained, “Sorry I was blubbing. Last year I was in a serious car accident, totaling my car. Amazingly, I wasn’t injured, but I blacked out. While I was unconscious, I had a strange sense of being taken care of in a special way. I felt held and looked after. It had a profound impact on me.” The audience’s singing of “606” again moved him, reminding him of God’s care.
$235,000 given so far
Mennonites sometimes take beautiful singing for granted. “But we should never forget what a gift it is and that this gift is so readily obvious to outsiders,” Eanes said.
To date, more than $235,000 has been given or promised, representing nearly 40 percent of the goal. Those who give $500 or more over the next three years can be named, or honor a loved one, with a line in the back of the hymnal. In addition to donations at the website, people can recommend favorite songs.