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Fall 1993 · Vol. 22 No. 2 · pp. 60–71 

The Making of a New Mennonite Brethren Hymnal

Clarence Hiebert

A new denominational hymnal is scheduled to be published June, 1994, after six years of work. An extensive congregational survey became a central input for the choice of hymns to give some attention to their tradition. The final selection of material was made with an awareness of current music trends and tastes. This essay focuses on some details of this process. 1

Analysis of Data

In 1990 a survey of Mennonite Brethren congregations using English-language hymn books was conducted. Responses from the 290 targeted congregations in Canada and the U.S.A. represented 27,828 (65%) members. Tabulations are on hand showing each congregation’s hymn use (primarily Sunday mornings) for an entire year. In summary, 2,367 different songs were sung for a grand total of 28,606 times.

The new hymnbook is highly constituency-oriented.

Of the total of 2,367 different songs used, 317 (13%) were the basic worship diet, and were sung a total of 19,676 times (69% of the time). These were songs used anywhere from 224 to 25 times in 1990. The chart details the statistics. {61}

Congregational Usage of Hymns

The 317 most-used songs were analyzed. See the list. One approach was to determine if these songs had been important in previous hymnals used by Mennonite Brethren. Thirteen hymnals dominantly used by or influential for Mennonite Brethren since 1860 were identified.

The Most Frequently Used Songs by Mennonite Brethren Congregations in 1990.

Freq.
of Use  
Song Title
224 I Will Enter His Gates
194 To God Be the Glory
179 Great Is Thy Faithfulness
177 O Come, All Ye Faithful
174 Majesty
174 How Great Thou Art
173 We Have Come Into This House
169 His Name Is Wonderful
156 Thou Art Worthy
148 Be Still and Know
146 Bless the Lord, O My Soul
145 O for a Thousand Tongues
145 This Is the Day
143 Joy to the World
142 God Forgave My Sin
138 Blessed Be the Name
138 Holy, Holy, Holy (Dykes)
135 Come, Christians, Join to Sing
135 Spirit of the Living God
133 Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
133 There Is a Redeemer
133 We Worship and Adore Thee
130 Because He Lives
129 O Worship the King
128 Blessed Assurance
126 He Lives
126 Amazing Grace
125 Our God Reigns
124 All Hail the Power (2 tunes)
123 Seek Ye First
122 He Is Lord
122 I Love You, Lord
121 Glorify Thy Name
119 Praise the Name of Jesus
118 My Hope Is Built
118 We Praise Thee, O God
117 Crown Him With Many Crowns
117 I Will Sing of the Mercies {62}
116 Open Our Eyes, Lord
116 Trust and Obey
115 Worthy of Glory
114 Take My Life and Let It Be
113 We Will Glorify
107 Praise Him! Praise Him!
105 Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
101 Bind Us Together, Lord
99 Praise to the Lord
99 Marvelous Grace
98 Come, Thou Almighty King
97 Wonderful Grace of Jesus
95 Jesus, Name Above All Names
95 Come, Let Us All Unite
92 Lord, Be Glorified
91 He Hideth My Soul
90 I Know Whom I Have Believed
89 Angels We Have Heard on High
89 Angels, From the Realms
89 All Hail King Jesus
88 And Can It Be
88 I Love to Tell the Story
88 We Are One in the Bond
87 God Is So Good
86 O Little Town of Bethlehem
86 What a Friend We Have
86 Behold What Manner of Love
86 Great Is the Lord
85 At the Cross
85 Christ the Lord Is Risen
85 Standing on the Promises
85 Savior Like a Shepherd
85 I Sing the Mighty Power
85 How Majestic Is Your Name
83 Father, I Adore You
83 My Jesus I Love Thee
83 Fairest Lord Jesus
83 It Is Well With My Soul
82 Silent Night
82 My Faith Has Found
81 Come Thou Long Expected
81 When I Survey
81 Christ Has for Sin Atonement
80 I Stand Amazed
79 Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
79 Like a River Glorious
79 The Family of God
78 Great Is the Lord
78 I Will Sing of My Redeemer
78 Holy God We Praise Thy Name
77 Higher Ground
76 Rejoice the Lord Is King
76 Doxology (Old Hundredth)
75 O How I Love Jesus
74 What a Fellowship
74 I Am Thine, O Lord
74 For the Beauty of the Earth
74 I Will Sing Unto (medley)
74 I Will Call Upon the Lord
73 O To Be Like Thee
73 Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart
72 Be Exalted O Lord
71 There Is Power in the Blood
71 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
71 Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
69 The Church’s One Foundation
69 Come Thou Fount of Ev’ry
68 Away in a Manger
68 Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus
68 Faith Is the Victory
67 As the Deer
67 Channels Only
67 Sing the Wondrous Love
66 Redeemed (Kirkpatrick)
65 Christ Arose
65 All to Jesus I Surrender
64 Open My Eyes That I May See
64 Spirit of God Descend
64 Hosanna
63 He Leadeth Me
63 Jesus Loves Me
63 Holy Is the Lord
62 I Will Sing the Wondrous
62 Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
62 More About Jesus
61 We’ve a Story to Tell
61 O Master, Let Me Walk
61 Jesus, What a Friend for
61 All That Thrills My Soul
60 Garment of Praise
59 King of Kings and Lord of
59 I Have Decided to Follow
58 Love Lifted Me
58 Near to the Heart of God
58 Lord We Praise You
57 Thy Lovingkindness
57 Take Time to Be Holy
56 Worthy Is the Lamb
56 Doxology (606)
56 The Steadfast Love of the
55 I Need Thee Ev’ry Hour
55 May the Mind of Christ
55 This Is My Father’s World
54 Come We That Love the Lord
52 Holy, Holy, Holy Is the Lord
52 Have Thine Own Way, Lord
52 Children of the Heavenly
52 Christ, We Do All Adore Thee
52 Jesus Saves
52 The Old Rugged Cross
52 Down at the Cross
51 Jesus Loves Even Me
51 You Shall Go Out with Joy
50 Gentle Shepherd
50 You Shall Be Holy Unto Me
50 Nothing But the Blood
49 When Morning Gilds the Skies
49 The First Noel
49 ’Tis So Sweet to Trust
49 Emmanuel
49 O Lord, You’re Beautiful
Freq.
of Use  
Song Title
48 We Are One in the Spirit
48 We Bring the Sacrifice of
47 Good Christian Men Rejoice
47 I Will Sing Unto the Lord
47 I Will Exalt Thee
47 I Will Sing, I Will Sing
47 Showers of Blessings
47 Wonderful Words of Life
46 Come, Ye Thankful People
46 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
46 The Sun Has Now Risen
46 Jesus Is All the World
46 Where He Leads I’ll Follow
46 Abba Father
46 Jesus Is Worthy of Praise
46 Bless the Lord/Great Is the
45 Hosanna Loud Hosanna
44 What Child Is This?
44 Now Thank We All Our God
44 Unto Thee, O Lord
44 Shine, Jesus, Shine
43 As With Gladness Men of Old
43 Love Divine, All Loves
43 We Come to Worship Thee
42 The Love of God
42 O God Our Help in Ages Past
42 Come All Christians Be
42 Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross
41 All the Way My Savior Leads
41 We Praise Thee O God
40 All Glory Laud and Honor
40 A Mighty Fortress
40 Teach Me Thy Way O God
40 Alleluia Give Thanks to the
40 I Give Myself to Thee
40 Hallelujah! What a Savior
40 What If It Were Today?
39 My Song Shall Be of Jesus
39 Take the Name of Jesus With
39 You Are My Wholeness
39 More Love to Thee O Christ
39 A Shelter in the Time of
38 In His Time
38 Rejoice Evermore for This Is
38 Praise Ye the Lord
38 Rejoice in the Lord Always
38 Consider Today What the Lord
37 Who Is on the Lord's Side?
37 Break Thou the Bread of Life
37 Give to Our God Immortal
37 O for a Heart to Praise My
37 Holy, Holy
37 Redeemed (Ada)
37 Alleluia
37 Stepping in the Light
37 We Have an Anchor
36 Teach Me to Pray
36 One Day
36 Praise My Soul the King of
36 There's Something About That
36 God of the Ages
36 Life Up Your Heads
36 God Gives His People Strength
36 He Is Exalted
35 All Creatures of Our God and
35 Who Is He in Yonder Stall?
35 Just As I Am
35 Am I a Soldier of the Cross?
35 Awesome God
35 I Would Be Like Jesus
34 God, Give Us Christian Homes
34 Satisfied
34 I Love You with the Love of
34 Create in Me a Clean Heart
34 Great and Mighty Is the Lord
34 Lead On, O King Eternal
34 He Keeps Me Singing
33 Lead Me to Calvary
33 Jesus Paid It All
33 There's a Song in the Air
33 Ye Servants of God
33 Day by Day
33 Brethren, We Have Met to
33 I Will Serve Thee
32 While Shepherds Watched
32 Jesus Calls Us
32 Now I Belong to Jesus
32 Soldiers of Christ Arise
32 I Would Be True
32 For All the Saints
32 God Himself Is With Us
32 Set My Spirit Free
32 Isn’t He Wonderful
32 Victory in Jesus
32 A Song of Gratitude
31 Faith of Our Fathers
31 We Gather Together
31 Let’s Just Praise the Lord
31 The Joy of the Lord Is Our
31 Give Thanks
31 Let There Be Glory and Honor
31 Whiter Than Snow
31 Christ Liveth in Me
30 Come Holy Spirit
29 The Lord’s My Shepherd
29 Once in Royal David’s City
29 Cleanse Me
29 Heavenly Father, I Appreciate
29 Surely Goodness and Mercy
29 There Is No Name So Sweet
29 This Is My Commandment
29 Lead Me Lord
29 Christ Returneth
29 Thy Word Is a Lamp
28 Onward Christian Soldiers
28 Beneath the Cross of Jesus
28 Soon and Very Soon
28 The Greatest Thing
28 Sing Hallelujah
28 I Will Bless the Lord
28 Tree Song
28 The Light of the World Is
28 Close to Thee
27 Count Your Blessings
27 The Lord Is King Praise
27 I Love Thy Kingdom
27 Thank You Lord
27 God of Grace and God of Glory
27 Come Bless the Lord
27 In the Spirit of Holiness
27 Ah Lord God, Thou Hast Made
27 Ascribe Greatness
27 Only Trust Him
27 God Leads His Dear Children
26 Tell Your Children
26 Is Your All on the Altar?
26 Simply Trusting Every Day
26 O Jesus, I Have Promised
26 Sing Praise to God Who Reigns
26 There’s a Wideness
26 Glorious Things of Thee Are
26 O Happy Day
26 Rescue the Perishing
26 Christ Is Our Cornerstone
26 Thou Art Worthy Lord Divine
26 In Moments Like These
26 Blessed Be the Lord God
25 Since Jesus Came Into
25 Sweet Hour of Prayer
25 I’ve Learned to Sing a Glad
25 I’ve Found a Friend
25 A Charge to Keep I Have
25 In Christ There Is No East
25 A Child of the King
25 Praise Ye the Triune God
25 Where the Spirit of the Lord
25 His Name Is Jesus
25 I Just Came to Praise

Nineteen songs from the list of 317 date back to pre-twentieth century German hymnals used in Russia; sixty-five date back to a North American German-language hymnal, Evangeliums-Lieder, first published in 1897. Sixty of these were German translations of American and British gospel songs and hymns; only five were of German origin. Fifty-nine of the songs were listed in at least eight of the 13 hymnals Mennonite Brethren used.

More than 100 of the current songs on the list were written after 1960 and therefore would not appear in early hymnals. Most of these songs, in the category of “contemporary Christian music,” were published in two currently used collections: Sing Alleluia and Hymns for Worship and Celebration (30 common to both books; 25 unique to Sing Alleluia; and 15 unique to Hymnal for Worship and Celebration). “Victory in Jesus,” still {65} one of the most popular Gospel songs in America, has never been included in hymnals Mennonite Brethren have most commonly used, yet it was used 32 times by the reporting congregations. The song “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” though included in the Mennonite Brethren Church Hymnal (1953), but not included in the Mennonite Brethren Worship Hymnal (1971), was nevertheless used 97 times.

Two major shifts occurred in the past 130 years. First, the use of Gospel songs, distinctly a post-1870’s development, was influenced by American and British Moody/Sankey revivals. By 1875 the Mennonite Brethren in Russia were already using German translations of such songs compiled by a Methodist minister, Ernst Gebhardt. In 1990 gospel songs represented more than one-third (37%) of the songs (116 songs out of 317).

Secondly, the inclusion of 100 songs (31%) of “contemporary Christian music” (also sometimes referred to as “worship and praise songs”) in the list of 317 songs used in 1990, indicates how powerfully post-1960’s main-line, charismatic evangelicalism has penetrated Mennonite Brethren worship styles. The term “contemporary Christian music” represents a “catch-all” term for the music linked in some ways to influences of the Jesus movement, the charismatic movement, the Vineyard movement and youth songs somewhat like the gospel song refrains or choruses sung around the 1950’s. Usually these songs are melodic, have catchy rhythms and syncopations, are sung in unison and often repeated for emphasis. Often a lead praise band sings with guitars, percussion and synthesizer as accompaniment.

The 2,637 songs used in 1990 by this relatively small and homogenous denomination attests to a great diversity of styles. Yet this list of 317 preferred songs (69%) offers hope that creating an acceptable hymnal is possible. The denomination’s Board of Faith and Life initiated the formation of a Hymnal Task Force in 1987 because they recognized that congregational singing is an influential medium in developing the unity that is important in worship, in teaching, in motivating people toward living more like Christ, and in energizing them through the Holy Spirit. 2

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW ADDS PERSPECTIVE

An overview of developments among the Mennonite Brethren, a group which seceded in 1860 in Russia from the “Kirchliche Mennonite,” offered some insights about music. The “Kirchliche Mennonites” were the progeny of 16th-century Anabaptists who had become the main-line Mennonites. They had emigrated from Prussia to south Russia beginning in 1789. In their Russian setting, the secession leaders of the Mennonite {66} Brethren declared, “We no longer want to sing those old, dragging songs.” They were referring to the songs in a repeatedly reprinted, old German Mennonite Gesangbuch 3. In this collection 725 song texts were set to 163 tunes. Four of the tunes were used with 107 of the texts! The 1952 Canadian Mennonite Brethren Gesangbuch (1952), published nearly a century later, included 39 of these 725 texts and a few of the tunes.

The “Brethren,” as the seceders from the “Kirchliche” came to be known in those first years, soon began using Julius Koebner’s Glaubenstimme, a Hamburg, Germany, Baptist-published collection of 647 songs. This hymnal with many chorales also included German pietistic songs along with a few translated American and British gospel songs. The Canada-published, Mennonite Brethren Gesangbuch (1952) included 108 songs from this collection. Among these were some longstanding, valued “Kernlieder” 4 as, for example, “So lange Jesus bleibt der Herr” (27x), “O Gott, mein Gott” (15x), “Was Kann es Schoen’res geben” (lx), and “Kann im wilden Sturm ein Lichtlein glimmen” (1x). These four, along with others that had been translated, found their way into the Worship Hymnal (1971) after already appearing in the English translation (1960) of the Gesangbuch (1952). The inclusion or exclusion of these specific “heritage songs” continues to be the source of some conflicts. The younger generation generally seems to have less regard for these and does not share the same “programmed intensity” of appreciation which their German-using forebears had.

Two decades after the secession of 1860, another hymnal, Frohe Botschaft in Lieder, edited by Julius Koebner, a German Methodist minister, came into widespread use. Koebner was the translator of most of the 115 songs from a fast-growing repertoire of English and American Gospel songs. Gospel songs, with their simple, melodic, folk-song type of appeal, often with repetitions in a refrain, were widely used in revival and evangelistic endeavors. These songs were attractive to those who had grown tired of “the old, dragging songs” they had used as “Kirchliche.” Nearly sixty of these were included in the Canadian Gesangbuch (1952). Forty were included in the Worship Hymnal (1971), but only fourteen of these were in the list of 317.

In North America the Evangeliums-Lieder (1897), edited and compiled by Ira Sankey and Germany-born Walter Rauschenbusch, prominent in America’s German Baptist Conference, became the most-used hymnal in Mennonite Brethren congregations. It was not used in Russia. A proliferation of publications in both countries incorporated an increasingly broadened hymnody, including gospel songs. They also included some older “Kernlieder” chorales and hymns. Sometimes smaller collections were bound together with each other in one volume with separate {67} indexes and pagination. There were two “Drei-Band” volumes, in particular, which were broadly used. One of the “Drei-Band” volumes was a combination of three separate compilations, Jubeltoene-Hosianna-Hallelujah, and the other was Heimatklaenge-Glaubenstimme-Frohe Botschaft. In some ways these “Drei-Band” volumes were similar to those in America’s Evangeliums-Lieder. Several children and youth collections like Singvoegelein also became popular.

Mennonite Brethren German Hymnals

Mennonite Brethren were involved in compiling, editing and translating some editions. In 1905, one was published by the Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, Medford, Oklahoma, as Zions Glaubenstimme, Gesangbuch der Mennoniten Bruedergemeinde in Nordamerika. It listed a non-Mennonite Brethren, H. W. Grage, as the compiler. From time to time specific published songbooks were recommended by the denominational leadership for congregational use. Two Mennonite Brethren involved in some of these efforts were Aaron G. Sawatzky and J. J. Franz. Franz was also a colleague with D. B. Towner and Ira Sankey, both associates with D. L. Moody.

One hundred seventy-two selections from the Evangeliums-Lieder constitute about one-third of the Gesangbuch (1952). Most of the other German songs are from other, more Europe-influenced sources. In North America, another type of “Gospel” hymn was becoming a part of the Mennonite Brethren repertoire--songs like “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Dykes/Heber), “Savior, Like a Shepherd,” “Amazing Grace” and “Marvelous Grace.” Meanwhile, the Russian churches were incorporating songs they referred to as “Kernlieder,” like “Ach Gott, ich moechte Stille sein,” “O Gott mein Gott,” “Keiner wird zuschanden” and “Wie gross bist Du.” The last named was a German translation of an 1886 published Swedish song brought to America by J. Edwin Orr and popularized in America through the Billy Graham Crusades, “How Great Thou Art.”

By 1920, Mennonite Brethren in Russia were also singing some Russian songs. Popular among these was a gospel song published in both Mennonite World Conference Songbooks (1978, 1990): “Joyously, Courageously We Go Our Way.” This song is still widely used in Russia and among the recent Aussiedler from Russia now relocated in Germany. Increasingly, the Mennonite Brethren who have remained in Russia sing songs in a minor key, melodically similar to those used by the Russian Orthodox.

Because of the conflict with Germany in both World Wars, the use of the German language became increasingly unpopular in North America. {68} In the 1940’s, after a few years of bilingual bridging, English became dominant. The most popular American hymnals, alongside the Evangeliums-Lieder, were Triumphant Service Songs (Rodeheaver HallMack, 1934) and Tabernacle Hymns #3 (Tabernacle Publishing, 1944).

These three hymnals, plus remembered hymns, chorales and “Kernlieder” from their Mennonite traditions, made up the basic core of the first U.S.A. Mennonite Brethren Church Hymnal (1953). This volume, edited by Herbert C. Richert, who also contributed eight songs to the hymnal, was made up of 294 American tunes (69%). There were also 56 British (13%), 46 German (11%), 8 unclassified (2%) and 8 tunes from nine other countries (4%). The composers were dominantly Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian.

English Hymnals

Songs still popular from the published hymnals (1897-1944), as reflected in the 1990 survey, are distributed as follows: Evangeliums-Lieder (1897), 66 songs (21%); Triumphant Service Songs (1934), 93 songs (29%); and Tabernacle Hymns #3 (1944), 100 songs (32%).

The first English-language Mennonite Brethren hymnal was produced in 1953 by U.S.A. Mennonite Brethren. A year earlier, the Canadian Mennonite Brethren had issued their first hymnal, Gesangbuch. The difference in the two hymnals was not one of theological focus or purpose, but was a reflection of the culturally different backgrounds through which Mennonite Brethren had lived for a half century. Church members in the U.S.A. had become more Americanized than the Canadians. The Canadians, made up dominantly of immigrants coming more recently from Russia, had stronger European “programming” in their worship life. In addition to translated gospel songs, they had preserved more of the cherished chorales and “Kernlieder,” as substantiated by the index of tunes in the Gesangbuch (1952). It was more like the Kirchliche Gesangbuch which their Mennonite parent body had used. The tunes were frequently used for a number of texts. In the Gesangbuch, eight tunes are used more than five times, for a total of 60 texts. This hymnal was translated into English and published in Canada as Hymn Book (1960).

By 1963, Mennonite Brethren from both Canada and the U.S.A. were in dialogue about producing a new hymnal to accommodate the changing needs in both countries. At the 1966 North American Convention, the Board of Reference and Counsel appointed a Hymnal Commission. A hymnal with 678 songs plus worship aids was published in 1971 with the title Worship Hymnal. Paul Wohlgemuth served as the editor. Eighty thousand copies, which represents about two copies per member, were sold within two decades. Worship Hymnal has been used by congregations {69} in at least 20 denominations. Though dominantly American in what it included in hymns and Gospel songs, there were more than sixty “heritage songs,” most of which were translations. The 1990 use list reveals that only three of these were sung more than 25 times: “The Sun Has Arisen” (46x), “We Come to Worship Thee” (43x) and “The Lord Is King, O Praise His Name” (27x). Other well known, German-origin songs ecumenically used include “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” (78x), “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (99x), “Now Thank We All Our God” (44x), and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (40x).

CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC INDICATES NEW TREND

It is evident that there is again a shift in music preferences among Mennonite Brethren and other evangelicals. The high priority (100 out of the 317 high-use songs) given to so-called “contemporary Christian music” (CCM) attests to this. CCM represents a distinct genre, dominantly used by younger people.

An explosion of songs of the CCM type began in the 1960’s. By the early 1980’s Mennonite Brethren pastors and worship leaders asked for help in finding the best that was available in this genre. In 1985 a hymnal supplement, a three-ring, add-on binder, titled Sing Alleluia with 127 songs was published. Not all of these selections were of the CCM type: CCM—62; gospel songs—27; hymns—24; rounds and miscellaneous—14. In 1987 an added packet of 22 songs was offered, and in 1993 another packet with 28 songs was issued. The 1990 survey indicates that songs from Sing Alleluia are among the most often sung. Seventy-two of the 177 songs in the expanded Sing Alleluia (41%) are in the list of 317. These 72 songs represent 22% of the entire high priority list.

Two hundred songs from the Worship Hymnal comprised 63% of the use list of 317 songs. This statistic is evidence that the Worship Hymnal served its purpose well. Coupled with the high number of songs (71) used from Sing Alleluia, the total number of songs (271) used from these two volumes comprises 85% of the 317.

DECISIONS ABOUT SELECTION AND PRODUCTION

Attempts to combine and balance the use of both styles of songs in one worship service are common in many congregations. The new hymnal will include a larger variety of music styles. Overall some 4,000 songs have been reviewed by the Committee.

The process of selecting about 600 hymns for the next hymnal has been highly constituency-oriented. More than 200 persons responded to {70}invitations to be involved in submitting and evaluating songs. Every congregation and constituent was given an opportunity to respond. The information gathered from the constituency has provided a significant source for establishing priorities in hymn selection. A list of the 819 songs (used five times or more in 1990) was sent for appraisal to key worship-interested persons. Ninety responded. Questions posed included: Has the song utility for a hymnal? How does it rate for Christian nurture? Is the song primarily suitable for overhead use or a hymnal?

An open invitation for added suggestions beyond the three hundred and fifty first-choice songs was extended through the denomination’s periodicals. Forty persons submitted a total of nearly 1,800 selections representing one thousand different songs. The primary concern throughout has been the development of a worship resource that focuses on Mennonite Brethren emphases and practices.

In addition to careful reviews of past Mennonite Brethren hymnody, many other hymnals were scrutinized. In addition to the Hymnal for Worship and Celebration (1986), the Hymnal: A Resource Book, published in 1992 by three “Believers Church” denominations (membership 300,000), was studied. The focus on recent research on Anabaptist/Mennonite themes was important; sixty songs unique to this collection have been chosen. Two other contemporary, evangelical hymnals were especially useful: The Worshipping Church (Don Hustad, ed., Hope, 1990), and the British Hymns for Today’s Church (Hodder & Stoughton, 1987). Attention has been given to songs by hymn-song writers such as Bryan Jeffrey Leach, Fred Pratt Green, Christopher Idle, Ken Medema, Margaret Clarksen and Timothy Dudley-Smith. Compositions by Mennonite Brethren have also been included. 5

The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, edited by Tom Fettke (Word, 1986) was selected as the baseline hymnbook. Negotiations with Word Publishing concluded with the agreement to use it as a basic hymnal, with an option to use 50% or more of its material. The layout design will be the same as that used by Word Publishing Company. The detailed process of hymn selection will have resulted in a product, a hymnal by the congregations and appropriately for the congregations. {71}

ENDNOTES

  1. This essay reflects basically only some historical and methodological facets of the larger project undertaken. Considerably more attention was given to philosophical concerns relating to Mennonite Brethren moorings in the biblical faith and emphases. The Confession of Faith and the recent “Vision Statement” offered an important perspective in the selection processes. Textual language concerns related to inclusiveness in genre issues, understandability, cultural contextualization, missiological and ecclesiological foci. Our awareness of the fast-changing, diverse musical genres has constantly been in mind. There was recognition of the changing influences and styles that have come about with the widespread use of diverse, electronic media in congregational singing. The common use of much more transitional music, usually through text projection or on disposable print-outs, has been revolutionary. It was established that this songs/hymns/readings resource “library” would be useful over a longer period of time if the more “transitional” genre, though influential, was not included in this collection.
  2. The recommendations made by the Board of Reference and Counsel (now Board of Faith and Life), appear in the Convention minutes of the 57th and the 58th Year Books of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (1987:49; 1990:74).
  3. The century-old Gesangbuch, repeatedly reprinted, had originally been published in German in Danzig in 1767 by the progeny of the Dutch/North German Mennonites who came there as immigrants after 1535. Many of the hymns were translations from the Dutch.
  4. The word “Kernlied” (literally, a “song with essence” or “the song that contains a living seed kernel”) became a designation for songs that had become especially meaningful to Mennonites in Russia. It was apparently not so much a “type” of song as a term that referred to any song that was highly valued in the churches. Ben Horch, a leading Canadian musician now deceased, used this term frequently in this way. The numbers that follow the four songs are the congregational uses, according to the survey of 1990.
  5. Later hymn composers among Mennonite Brethren have included Herbert C. Richert, Larry Warkentin, Dietrich Friesen, Larry Nickel, Carol Dyck, Jake Klassen, Jonah C. Kliewer and John C. Klassen.
Dr. Clarence Hiebert, Professor Emeritus of Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas, has served as committee member on three hymnal projects, and currently chairs the Mennonite Brethren Hymnal Commission.

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