Theological Studies Professor Launches Mennonite Worship Website

Monday, May 25, 2020

“Worship is the beating heart of the Christian church,” reflected Professor Carol Penner, who teaches practical theology at Conrad Grebel University College and the University of Waterloo. Carol and a team of six volunteers from Mennonite churches across Canada and the USA have spent the last two years creating a website of worship resources with an Anabaptist Mennonite approach designed to aid leaders in the Mennonite Church. They plan to expand their team to include more faculty and students from Mennonite institutions as curation continues.Carol Penner

While some denominations have services led by ordained clergy, Carol noted that Mennonite worship leaders tend to be volunteers, not all of whom are theologically trained. “Having a website that provides resources written by Anabaptists can really help them as they prepare to lead worship.” The website, Together in Worship, aims “to support leaders shaping thoughtful and creative worship through easy to access and free online resources.” It will include lyrics, prayers, and visuals that reflect diverse cultures and languages, as well as information for the mentorship of individuals interested in growing their understanding and practice of Mennonite worship.

The platform will also act as a base from which to find and access worship resources that have been developed by Mennonite organizations, and a place for “individuals and communities to create and share resources.” One of the project’s objectives is to “support corporate worship in communities that have diverse worship practices.” While Together in Worship prominently serves a Mennonite audience, its content will be available to leaders in all denominations.

The project has received $18,000 US of funding from the 2019-2020 “Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Teacher-Scholar Grant.” This grant allowed Carol and her committee to hold a bi-national working meeting and to hire four students for the 2019 summer term “to find, curate and input worship resources from a variety of Anabaptist perspectives.” One of these students was part of a Supervised Experience in Ministry course in Grebel’s Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program.

Shantz Mennonite Church’s “Bequest Earning Disbursement Fund” also contributed to the website. This $10,000 will be used for graphic design and further website development. Carol shared that these grants have been integral to the website’s progress. “The Together in Worship working group is extremely grateful for the funding we received, because this project could not have gotten off the ground without the generous support of these organizations.”

This summer, three more MTS students will be curating resources for the website as part of a Supervised Experience in Ministry. Sarah Johnson, who is an MTS graduate and worship resources editor for the Voices Together Mennonite hymnal and editor for its accompanying volume for worship leaders, will be supervising these MTS students.

Carol explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has displayed the importance of online availability for resources in ever-changing circumstances. “Worship is where we come together to find strength and comfort in these hard times.” The website will launch in fall 2020 at togetherinworship.net, beginning with access to English resources such as prayers and readings, and gaining more content as the site progresses. Carol added that the “goal is to include resources written in a variety of languages, as well as music, and visual art.”

by Elizabeth Robertson