From left: Brenda Hess, Osée Tshiwape, Lefuarn Harvey, John Lapp, Ann Jacobs, and Sandy Miller (not pictured) lead worship as part of Mennonite Mission Network's Work in Progress Ensemble at the Community Mennonite Church of Markham (Ill.). Photo by Sara Alvarez. Download full resolution.
Sara Alvarez
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

MARKHAM, Ill. (Mennonite Mission Network)—The Holy Spirit soared in the sanctuary of Community Mennonite Church of Markham (Ill.) as the voices of the Work in Progress Ensemble sang harmonies and impromptu melodies during the Aug. 17 service.

Ann Jacobs, one of the three leaders of the ensemble, said that after the service, several people from the congregation thanked her for the music. Some mentioned that the church doesn’t currently have worship leaders, and that it was refreshing to have live music in the church.

“[The congregation] brought their energy, which gave us a chance to experience what God is doing in the church,” said Jacobs.

Cyneatha Millsaps, pastor of Community Mennonite Church of Markham, said that when she received an inquiry from Work in Progress, there was no doubt she wanted to have them sing.

“It was such a blessing to have them here,” said Millsaps. “I love praise and worship in such an uplifting, Spirit-filled way. I’m more than thankful to have them here.”

The worship had a lively energy as they sang gospels and praises during worship time. The Spirit-led singing wove into the rest of the service. The singers’ faces showed that they loved singing, and that joy transferred to the congregation.

Work in Progress Ensemble is led by three women who work at Mennonite Mission Network: Lefuarn Harvey, mission partnership coordinator; Jacobs, office services coordinator; and Sandy Miller, director of church relations. The three women share leadership for the group and guide the vision of the group to build relationships across racial and ethnic communities of Mennonite Church USA.

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Other members who sang Aug. 17 were Brenda Hess, John Lapp, and Osée Tshiwape; two other members, Steve Hochstetler Shirk and James Krabill, were unable to attend this engagement.

“We bring a spirit of coming together to sing songs of worship,” said Harvey. “Even though we might not all agree on everything, and this may sound cliché, but music can break barriers. We all come together from different backgrounds and churches and become one voice.”

The leaders share the belief that these differences add to the depth of what they can offer.

“It’s a joy any time we can praise and worship God with God’s believers,” said Miller. “[Because] even though we do it differently in different churches, it’s the diversity of God’s people worshiping and praising the same God that unites us as believers.”

Work in Progress Ensemble sings hymns, contemporary music, and music from each of their congregations.

“It ends up being our own each time, though, because we add and take away from the songs as the Spirit speaks to us that day,” said Jacobs. “We sing to celebrate.”

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John Powell, a regional pastor for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, who retired from Mennonite Mission Network in 2012, was invited by Work in Progress to preach at the service. He led the congregation in a timely reflection on Romans 8:31-37, which he said is an invitation to overcome our despair and darkness about our lives or about world events. Powell preached that we must give up our control to God and trust that God has a plan.

“We can all be part of the overcomers’ club,” said Powell. “We may have fear and be worried, but we will all become part of what God wants us to be.”

For more information or to book the Work in Progress Ensemble, send an email to


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Mennonite Mission Network, the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA, leads, mobilizes and equips the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world. Media may contact


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