Friday evening at 7 p.m., hymn singers will gather in Newcomer 19 to kick off a hymn marathon. The marathon will cover every verse of every hymn in "Hymnal: A Worship Book" and will likely last the entire weekend.
Hymns have long played an important role in the broader Mennonite culture and at Goshen College.
Bobby Switzer, a senior and leader of the Hymn Club, said, “There is something beautiful about singing in parts. The individuality of each voice is allowed and valued for its distinctiveness, and yet the cohesive whole is more beautiful than any separate part. It’s a remarkable expression of what community is.”
While Switzer didn’t grow up in a Mennonite church singing hymns every Sunday, he discovered a strong affinity for singing hymns.
“Nowhere else have I felt God’s presence more than in the context of kindred hearts singing in harmony,” Switzer said. "I've been involved with hymn sings from the first weekend of my first year [at Goshen College]. I fell in love with the hymn singing at Goshen."
This prompted him to form an official Hymn Club later in his first year along with several friends. The club has grown and taken on other projects over the years, such as Christmas caroling and organizing hymn sings at the annual Mennonite Relief Sale.
The idea of a hymn marathon took shape around a table in the dining hall. Switzer was thankful for extra help in facilitating the planning effort.
He said of the team, “They helped to propel it forward and to keep it sustained. It’s truly been a collaborative effort.”
Hymn marathons are not unknown to Goshen College. The most recent was organized in 2003 by Deb Brubaker, professor of music, in response to America’s preparations for war in Iraq. This weekend’s hymn marathon also centers on peace.
“This hymn marathon in particular excites me because we are using our gifts for broader peace work,” Switzer said. “We are using our voices to spread awareness and to raise funds for Christian Peacemaker Teams, a group engaged in actively non-violent, on-the-ground peacemaking.”
Goshen won’t be singing alone. Not only will congregations across the country host parallel hymn sings, groups in Scotland and Australia will also raise their voices.
“I’m most looking forward to seeing students, faculty, staff and community members merge their voices with ours for peace. I’m also looking forward to the wider engagement,” Switzer said.
For Switzer, using hymns, specifically, is important for this marathon.
"I think of hymns as tools. Each has a different purpose and tells a different story. They allow us to express our theology, our lament, our praise, our hope and our community. When you sing with others, you form a bond," Switzer said. "By singing together, we are building community and creating connections that make it harder for hate to break through."
Everyone is welcome to participate in the marathon. Individuals and congregations can also host one-hour solidarity hymn sings or directly support Christian Peacemaker Teams through tax-deductible donations.
For more information, contact Bobby Switzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.