The hymn marathon held at Goshen College on Nov. 14-16 was not limited to this small region in Indiana—it was a global event.Over 37 countries viewed the live-streamed event—about 5,000 people watching from all over the world.
“I heard stories of people who were watching the live-stream and singing along as they cleaned their houses, or were singing along with us from their personal hymnal. There were people in Scotland and Australia hosting their own hymn sings,” Bobby Switzer, a senior who helped plan the event, said.
The marathon, which was organized by Goshen College students, involved singing through the entire hymnal to raise money for Christian Peacemaker Teams. This organization focuses on global non-violent and active peacemaking.
So far, the hymn marathon has raised $10,000 for the team, and the money is still coming in.
“We wanted to do something with a purpose. This was right during the time the ISIS situation was flaring up, and we decided, as compassionate peacemakers, we should use what gifts we have for the cause of peace,” Switzer said.
The idea for the marathon was born through a dinner conversation. Originally, the plan was to do a 24-hour hymn sing, but it was soon changed to singing through the entire hymnal.
“So many little pieces just came together—and it worked,” Switzer said. “So many of us are passionate about hymn singing and being together in community, and it felt like we got it really right. People from diverse religious and political backgrounds came together and just sang.”
For publicity and support, the group emailed every church affiliated with Mennonite Church USA—all 959 of them. They also contacted Greencroft Communities and local congregations, asking them to come and participate.
“We were asking congregations to be aware of the event and support us financially,” Switzer said.
The event started at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14 and went non-stop until 1:15 am on Nov. 16. There were five Goshen College students who sang the entire 30 hours: Switzer, Nate O’Leary, a first-year; Melanie Drinkwater, a sophomore; Kenan Bitikofer, a first-year; and Eliana Neufield Basinger, a first-year.
“There was a lot of community, especially at the beginning and the end when there were a lot of people there. Even at one o’clock Saturday morning, we had a pretty big crowd. People came just for the Christmas section,” Bitikofer said.
“I love singing hymns,” he continued, “And back home my church always sang out of the blue hymnal. The music interests me as well as well as the lyrics. Now, I have a better knowledge of what’s in the hymnal.”
This is not the first time that Goshen College has sung through the entire hymnal—and it surely won’t be the last.