In May, Anabaptist musicians from a variety of countries met together in Canada for a songwriting retreat sponsored by Anabaptist Worship Network. George Makinto recounts how he experienced hope through the gathering of such a diverse group of people coming together to worship God.
This blog post was originally shared on Mosaic Mennonite Conference’s website. Shared with permission.
Reflections from the 2023 Anabaptist Worship Network songwriting retreat
Although I left home, in late May, at 4:00 AM for my flight from Los Angeles to Toronto, the traffic around LAX was already bumper to bumper. The Canada Air flight was full to the last seat. I was finally able to ponder about what awaited me in Canada: Old style Mennonite songwriting? New hymns in 4-part harmony? Tall, bearded men singing versions of the old 606?
Emily Ralph Servant, who serves on Mosaic Mennonite Conference staff; Stephen Zacheus, of Jemaat Kristen Indonesia Anugerah in Sierra Madre, California; and I were picked up from the Toronto airport by Matthew Boutda. His humble charm and infectious smile immediately drew us into his story about his Laotian roots and his urban Mennonite upbringing. The image of the traditional bearded Mennonite quickly dissipated. Arriving at the Hidden Acres Mennonite retreat center, just outside New Hamburg, Ontario, we were greeted by a diverse group of Anabaptist worship leaders, singers and songwriters from Canada, the U.S., and as far away as Congo and Mexico.
The days and nights were filled with worship, collaborative song writing, deep reflections about God and God’s people, eating together, and getting to know one another. Anneli Loepp Thiessen, co-director of Anabaptist Worship Network and retreat coordinator, found just the right balance between worship, collaborative song writing, personal time with God, meals and group fellowship. She also gave ample time for the sharing of the newly minted songs.
And songs were written indeed! The abundance of ideas flowing out of the gathering from so many creative minds was astonishing. The presence of God was palpable everywhere we gathered. The sounds of guitars, keyboards, pan flutes, violins, flutes and voices filled the building, the lunch hall, the garage, the veranda, the pavilion. The anointing flowed freely and gave voice to a surprising variety of songs and musical expressions: hymns; folksy praise songs; northern testimonial songs; songs with Columbian, Mexican, African, Indonesian melodies and rhythms, in a variety of languages, styles and expressions. Personal laments, adoring worship and exuberant praise rang though the retreat center, and God-given inspiration was manifest in each work group, expressing itself in a multitude of awesome song creations that gave glory to God.
One of the most positive aspects of the retreat was the sense of absolute unity and harmony reigning among a group with such diversity. There were no tempers flaring, no political discussions or divisive opinionating. We all gathered, connected in a deep spiritual place, and let God have God’s way in us. Peace and love flowed and gave expression to worship. It gave me hope that indeed peace and unity among us is possible when we let God’s presence guide our activities and submit to God’s leading.
As one of the song’s choruses exclaimed:
“Hope you’re bringing. Hope we’re singing,
Hope is ringing out! Hope is stirring, leading us to life!”
Thanks to Darryl Neustaedter Barg and his patience and expertise, we were able to record many songs, which will soon find their way to the Together in Worship website for the benefit of our world-wide Anabaptist community.
Thanks to the Anabaptist Worship Network for bringing us together, according to the word of God in Psalm 96:1-3 (NIV):
“Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”
Listen to one of the songs that George Makinto collaborated on during the retreat here: Hope is Ringing Out (video)
Or view the lyrics here: Hope is Ringing Out (lyrics)
The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not intended to represent the views of the MC USA Executive Board or staff.
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