A new song for Assembly

Deborah Froese
August 4, 2017
Mennonite Church Canada
Man playing guitar
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Planning Assembly worship might be a daunting task, but if you’ve got the right team – and the right music – the spirit of the event will follow people home.

With that idea in mind, the worship committee for Mennonite Church Canada’s Special Assembly in Winnipeg, Man., Oct. 13-15, 2017, is bringing to the event a new song written by Phil Campbell Enns.

May Your Spirit give life will feature prominently at the Assembly along with the selected theme song, New earth, heaven’s new (HWB 299) by Harris J. Loewen.

A songwriter, guitar builder and pastor at Bethel MC in Winnipeg, Campbell Enns shaped lyrics around the Assembly theme text found in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6. It describes a new covenant, written on our hearts. “It’s a take-off point,” Campbell Enns says of the scripture.

Campbell Enns is the chair of the worship committee. Other committee members are Moses Falco (Sterling MC, Winnipeg, Man.), Anneli Loepp Thiessen (from MCEC and a member of Emerging Voices Initiative, Winnipeg),Vernelle Enns Penner (Douglas MC, Winnipeg), and Johise (pronounced “Joyce”) Namwira (Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship, Winnipeg). Campbell Enns says the group is taking their homework so seriously, that at their second meeting, Enns Penner had already prepared the opening call to worship.

The committee helped him fine-tune the lyrics to May Your Spirit give life, but Campbell Enns says that was outside his creative norm. He’s used to working on his own. “It’s me hanging out on the couch at seven in the morning with a cup of coffee.” He works slowly and randomly – especially at the beginning. Once a general form is established, he spends a few weeks editing his ideas and turns of phrase.

Working with the committee gave him a new perspective on what he does. Falco raised questions about the thoughts behind various lines, but getting a change in lyric to fit the musical meter was another challenge. “Every song you’re dealing with a limited vocabulary,” Campbell Enns says. “You’re looking for words that are just as effective so you don’t sing the same word over and over again.”

This isn’t the first time Campbell Enns has written music for a Mennonite Church Canada Assembly. Mountain of God was featured at the 2001 Assembly at Colombia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C. Your beloved child resonated throughout the 2013 Fat Calf Festival – another Youth Assembly – at Camp Assiniboia near Winnipeg, Man. The already-familiar music received an unusual twist at the end of the week-long event with a change to the chorus lyrics.

There is always something new to take away from Assembly, Campbell Enns notes, and he and the worship committee for Special Assembly 2017 hope music will be a large part of that.

“It’s the reason you write a song specifically so that when people go home, they have something creative or artistic to take away, to be associated with the event.. . . You hope that even the first couple of notes might remind people of the event, of the national church coming together.”

Phil Campbell Enns shares a preview of May Your Spirit give life at www.philcampbellenns.com/songbook.html. Scroll through the alphabetically arranged list of song titles.