October 9, 2017
By Jane Bishop Halteman

Last week, after the Las Vegas shootings, an Instagrammer I follow posted a beautiful photo of one of her morning glories with the caption:  “Working hard to stay focused on some positive things today, just when you think the news cannot get much worse.”

Already in overload after weather-associated and politically-related trauma, the country fell into new grief and pain on behalf of the wounded, families of the deceased, and those who witnessed the horror. I found helpful posts like “I light a candle for…” from friend June and The Mennonite’s Call to Prayer after Las Vegas Shooting

I heard Rep. John Lewis call for Congress to be bold and brave and courageous, a “headlight rather than a tail light” as the country continues to seek resolution on gun control.  Lewis spoke of “kneeling protests” as we attempt to move forward from yet another outrageous act of violence in our midst.

“Maybe the first change we make is to go through a day and look everyone we see in the eye,” country singer/songwriter Amy Grant said in an MSNBC interview.  “We spend so much time doing so many things that don’t really matter; what really matters is our connection to each other.” 

Psychology Today offered Coping with the Psychological Trauma of a Mass Shooting and Religion News Service’s After Las Vegas, who says prayer doesn’t ‘work’ suggested prayers without action might be suspect. 

But most helpful and hopeful of all the advice and inspiration I came across last week in the wake of Las Vegas was the invigorating worship service I attended yesterday at Salford Mennonite Church, a Franconia Conference congregation in eastern PA, where both Jim’s and my mother’s families worshipped during their growing up years.

Constructed around introduction of the denomination’s work on a new hymnal, the service featured five songs being considered for the new collection and three favorites (For the Beauty of the Earth, I Sought the Lord, and My Life Flows on) shared by members of the congregation, who were invited to offer a story about a “heart song” from the old hymnal that they hope will remain in the new hymnal.   

In a moving Lament for Las Vegas, congregants carrying candles in memory of Las Vegas, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Nickel Mines, and other scenes of recent mass shootings processed down the center aisle to place their flames on deep window sills throughout the church. Associate pastor Beth spoke for all of us in her prayer: “We come to you with our hearts sometimes in shreds for what we witness in our world.  Let us hear your voice that whispers the way that we should go.” We learned a beautiful Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy) as a sung response. 

“In 2016 the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee began work on a collection intended to replace Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992) and supplements Sing the Journey (2005) and Sing the Story (2007). This new collection will take into account the diversity of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA and will be available in bound and digital formats,” according to the project’s website which also notes that “some say Mennonites do not have a liturgy or a set form of worship, but it is in singing together week after week where Mennonites express their Christian faith.” 

Donations to Project 606 can be made at this site, where we learn that “hymnals are generational, of a particular time.  Pick up any historic hymn collection and you will find a unique window into who worshipers understood God to be.  Our understanding about God and being God’s people are fluid, not static.  God is revealed to us as we open ourselves to language and art forms old and new, from near and far.” Before the committee began its work, $100,000 of the $606,000 needed for the project had been donated. To date, $378,000 has been raised.

Congregations are invited to download Resonate Sampler 2017 plus accompaniments and artwork here for one-day use Sunday, October 22, during Great Day of Singing worship services.  College Mennonite Church in Goshen will host a regional hymn sing Sunday, October 22, at 2 p.m. in connection with the Great Day of Singing event.  

For more on the new hymnal project, see this YouTube video of singers rehearsing a candidate for inclusion from Zimbabwe and this YouTube video which reveals more about why Mennonites are creating a new hymnal as those working on the song collection consider what the church is singing presently and what the church should continue to sing for the next generation. You can follow the project's progress on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

(Editor's Note:  For those of you who have been following the streams of faith stories here the last three weeks, they will be back next week!)