It’s Monday night. Take the trek up to Martin Chapel. Step inside the wooden doors and come inside from the wet weather. Continue through the foyer into the makeshift room formed by temporary walls. Survey the small crowd of nearly 70 students as you amble to the stage where the books are piled.
Select a worn blue hymnal, and the spiral-bound purple and green books. Find a spot in the circle forming around the piano in the center of the room. As you wait for the hymn sing to begin, look around you and take in the community that is forming around this music. Songs written decades and centuries ago are, even now, bringing believers together from across the spectrum of faith. Newer melodies with words have been created to express more modern times.
Contemplate whether you will know all of the songs tonight, and if that even matters or not. Suddenly, one of the student leaders steps into the middle of the circle and announces the first hymn. Let the singing commence.
Hymns have long been an integral part of the Mennonite faith, so it should come as no surprise to students that the age-old tradition is carried on at EMU. On the first Monday of each month at 9 p.m., Seniors James Souder and Anna Weaver lead a hymn sing in Martin Chapel, accompanied by Senior Phillip Martin.
Last Monday marked the second event of the year, as well as an increase in attendance and the introduction of theme nights. The first hymn sing of the 2012-2013 school year occurred on Sept. 3, with a turnout of about 30 students. On Monday, there was a sense of excitement among the leaders and the returning attendees due to the increase in participants to 68.
Weaver opened up the night by announcing that they had picked ‘Awe’ as the general theme for the hymns. She then proceeded to announce the number of the first hymn; “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.” Throughout the rest of the hour, Weaver and Souder alternated between conducting a variety of songs from the Hymnal: A Worship Book (HWB), Sing the Journey (STJ), and Sing the Story (STS).
I appreciated this because while I didn’t recognize the majority of the songs, I was able to listen to everyone sing around me and to learn the new melodies and also pay close attention to the words. While Martin accompanied the majority of the hymns, we sang several a cappella, our voices bouncing off the walls, ceiling, and each other. Soprano, alto, tenor and bass blended together into one perfectly harmonized medley of praise.
Words escape me in trying to express the exquisiteness of a room full of believers singing the same song. In that space and time, it didn’t matter who everyone is voting for come November. We were simply together, and it was absolutely beautiful. One of the most striking moments of the night occurred during a singing of “All Will Be Well” from STJ. We sang through the entire song with each of the verses, and then hummed the chorus as Souder prayed for the rest of the night and for the school year.
A feeling of sacredness pervaded the room as the last chord reverberated and finally faded out, and there was a very real sense of the presence of God amidst our circle. This sense remained throughout the rest of the night, and was only strengthened when we concluded by singing “Praise God From Whom,” better known as 606 or 118 to those with a Mennonite background.
I thoroughly enjoyed Monday’s hymn sing, and definitely plan on attending the next one in November and any that follow. Check out the group’s Facebook page titled “Hymn Singers at EMU” for details on future events.
Lauren Sauder, Sports Editor