Music opens window to Anabaptist worship across cultures

Five vocal ensembles display God’s love in the diversity of culture through music in 10 concerts at 500 anniversary event in Zurich

“Dalam Yesus…”  For many Assembly participants, the multilingual, multicultural music of plenary worship sessions is one of the most memorable parts of this global family encounter. Rashard Allen wants to expand on that at “The Courage to Love: Anabaptism@500” in Zurich, 29 May 2025. The Mennonite World Conference event commemorates the 500th anniversary of the Anabaptist movement.

The director of music and worship at Neffsville Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania, USA, has gathered one ensemble from each of the five MWC regions for the day.

“We want to represent all that Anabaptism is now and what will it look like in the future: Two-thirds of Anabaptists are in the Global South. Anabaptism is very diverse,” he says.

“Music is a huge part of expressing our diversity. Although we all speak different languages, music is a language all of us can relate to. And so, it gives us a window into a culture.

“We can espouse Anabaptist theology and values, but music represents our diversity culturally,” Rashard Allen says. “The group from Latin America will sound different from the group from Africa. The way they express Anabaptism is contextualized through their music.”

Consulting with MWC’s regional representatives and his own musical contacts around the world, Rashard Allen booked five ensembles:

In line with event’s theme, “The Courage to Love,” each of the ensembles is committed to the work of reconciliation, says Rashard Allen. “They have a global ecumenical outlook in terms of how they understand their role in being an Anabaptist choir/ensemble.”

Each group will present two concerts and participate in the mass worship gathering at the close of the day. Indoor concerts at the Predigerkirche will be 45 minutes long. The ensembles will also give a 30-minute outdoor concert. Due to local bylaws about amplification, the outdoor concerts will have a modified instrumentation style.

“Each experience will be unique because the groups do things in different ways,” says Rashard Allen.

There’s going to be a lot going on: workshops, a walking tour, a panel discussion and the choirs.

“My hope is that other people will see the ensembles as a centrepiece of the event and take in as much as they can,” he says.

“Treat it like a buffet: see one outdoor concert and one indoor concert. I would encourage people to watch a group that is not from their home continent. Allow yourself to experience something new. Each experience will be unique.”

“I believe each person and each culture gives us a window into an aspect of who God is. I hope people will look for that in the music.”

“I’m looking forward to worship once again with such a diversity in music, so many different expressions of love for God and God’s love,” says Rashard Allen, who was part of the international ensemble for Assembly 17.  

“You will get a sense of where the Anabaptist church is now and where it has been. I’m really excited to be a part of it.”

Find information about tours for The Courage to Love: Anabaptism@500.