Student Profiles

It is God who makes the music

Anneli Loepp Thiessen

A lifelong love of music and a fascination with worship led Anneli Loepp Thiessen to pursue a Bachelor of Music at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU).

Loepp Thiessen says her studies offer opportunities to explore questions such as: why do we worship? And what does it mean when we worship? Answers to questions such as these are complex, yet Loepp Thiessen suggests the root of the answer lies in viewing worship as a conversation.

“We are very used to worshipping and making music as a community, but it’s more than congregations often realize,” she says. “It’s about gathering as a community and what we’re saying to each other—what does it mean to us and what does it mean to God?”

As a worship director at Doon Presbyterian Church in Kitchener, Ontario for two summers, Loepp Thiessen explored this theory in a practical setting, drawing on her classroom learning, including theories and techniques learned in the course Leading Music and Worship. The position was a foundational one for her.

“I know that I’m going to be involved with church music for a long time,” she says. “Having this foundation from CMU has given me a really realistic expectation for worship and guidelines of how we approach worship.”

A quote by Johann Sebastian Bach encapsulates the connections Loepp Thiessen sees in the two concentrations she’s studying: music ministry and piano performance.

I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music. – Johann Sebastian Bach

“If as a solo pianist I am being true to what Bach intended, then it’s going to be an act of worship—I need to think of it as a conversation with God, which takes it to another level,” she says.

Bach is a favourite composer of Loepp Thiessen’s and at CMU she’s had the opportunity to perform his pieces as a solo performer, with the Mennonite Community Orchestra, with the CMU Singers, and with a solo singer, all of which she has greatly enjoyed. She’s appreciated the opportunities to learn how to provide accompaniment in different performance contexts.

Loepp Thiessen has also experienced the collaborative nature of CMU through faculty mentorships in each department of the music program. Witnessing the care and interest of faculty members has impressed upon her the importance of sharing music with others.

“When I graduate from CMU, one of the things that will stick with me is the idea that as musicians one of the most valuable things we can do is be mentors,” says Loepp Thiessen. She’s already sharing her passion for and knowledge of music with others by teaching piano at CMU’s Community School of Music and the Arts.

Loepp Thiessen says studying music at CMU has surpassed her expectations.

“There is no school that offers such a wide range of disciplines within the music program, does them so well, and within the context of Christian community.”

Learn more about CMU’s Bachelor of Music degree:

Events News Releases

Planning Well: A Workshop for Worship Planners and Leaders

Workshop to be held January 30 at CMU in Winnipeg

Worship orders—every congregation has one. Many churches have inherited them from past generations of worship planners. Other churches have thrown out traditional worship orders and simply invented their own. But how effective are our worship orders at bringing us into conversation with God and with one another?

PlanningWell“Many congregations invest a lot of time and energy in song leading, worship leading and preaching,” says Christine Longhurst, who teaches worship and music at Canadian Mennonite University. “But far less time is often spent thinking about the worship order itself.”

According to Longhurst, “Without a good worship order, even the most thoughtful worship leading and song leading can have difficulty connecting people with God and with one another.”

Talking about worship orders can be very difficult in some congregations,” she acknowledges. But, she suggests, it is critical work.

“We have to be willing to discuss it,” she says. “It’s important to ask: Does our worship order help bring us into conversation with God, or does it come off feeling more like a program about God?”

“People today are hungry to know God and experience God’s presence,” she adds. “A thoughtful worship order can make a big difference in helping create a beautiful space where that encounter can take place.”

Helping pastors and worship leaders plan worship more effectively is the goal of Planning Well: A Workshop for Worship Planners and Leaders, January 30, at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. The session runs from 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM.

Cost is $35 per person, and $25 for two or more people from the same congregation. Students are $10.

The workshop will explore a range of historical and contemporary worship patterns, and offer practical ideas for worship planners who want to help lead their congregations into meaningful dialogue with God.

Topics will include:

  • Where do our worship orders come from?
  • How did we land up with the order we are currently using?
  • How well does our current worship order bring us into conversation with God?
  • What might be missing?
  • How effectively does our worship order engage people who come to worship?
  • Are there ways in which we could strengthen congregational involvement?

The workshop is geared toward pastors, worship planners, worship leaders, song leaders, and all those who have an interest in strengthening congregational worship.

For more information or to register, contact Cori Braun at Canadian Mennonite University: 204.487.3300 or, or register online at

Events News Releases

Leading Well: A Workshop for Song Leaders and Worship Leaders

Workshops to be held Jan. 24 in Winnipeg, Jan. 31 in Winkler

When most Christians think about ways to improve worship, they often think about music—changing the musical style, adding a praise band, singing new songs.

Worship music is important, says Christine Longhurst, but it’s not the only thing.

“In recent years, many churches have invested significant time and energy in the leadership of worship music,” says Longhurst, who teaches worship and church music at Canadian Mennonite University.

“Less attention has been given to the role of spoken worship leadership—the comments and prayers that move a congregation through the worship order.”

In many churches, song leaders are expected to do both musical and spoken worship leading, she notes. But the two require different skills.

Leading WellHelping worship leaders and song leaders lead congregations in worship is the goal of Leading Well: A Workshop for Song Leaders and Worship Leaders. Scheduled dates are January 24, at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg and January 31 in Winkler at Covenant Mennonite Church. Both sessions run from 9:30 AM to 12:15 PM.

Cost is $35 per person, and $25 for each additional person from the same congregation. Students are $20.

The first part of each workshop will explore the challenges and opportunities worship leaders face, offering practical ideas for leading congregations into meaningful encounters with God. 

The second part will explore the role of spoken and sung prayer in worship services, offering suggestions for effectively engaging people in conversation with God.

Topics that will be addressed include:

  • What kind of personal preparation is needed before leading others in worship?
  • How can we begin and end worship well?
  • How can we create a helpful flow when moving from song to song, or from song to prayer?
  • When can comments be more disruptive than helpful?
  • How can song leaders and other worship leaders work together more effectively?
  • How can we more effectively engage the whole congregation in prayer?
  • What kinds of resources are available to help us?

The workshops are geared toward pastors, worship leaders, song leaders, and all those who have an interest in strengthening congregational worship.

For more information or to register visit or contact Cori Braun at Canadian Mennonite University: 204.487.3300 or

About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences and social sciences, and graduate degrees in Theology and Ministry. CMU has over 1,600 students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury Campus and in its Menno Simons College and Outtatown programs.

For information about CMU, visit:

For additional information, please contact:

Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

Events News Releases

Helping Worship Leaders Find New Songs Goal of CMU Workshop

New Songs for Worship to be held November 2; will also address issue of musical style

WINNIPEG, August 15, 2013 – With so many new songs in so many different styles being written for worship these days, how can worship leaders even begin to sort through them all?

“Some people suggest that more songs have been written for worship since 1970 than were written in the two thousand years prior,” says Christine Longhurst, who teaches at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU).

“We can’t know if that’s true, but it often feels like it. There’s a steady stream of new songs coming at today’s song leaders and worship leaders. It’s tough to keep up.”


Helping worship leaders discover the best new songs is the goal of New Songs for Worship, to be held Saturday, November 2, 9:30 AM – 12:15 PM at CMU’s Chapel, 600 Shaftesbury Boulevard in Winnipeg.

Led by Longhurst, a former worship pastor and author of the popular re:Worship blog (, the workshop will also address issues of musical style.

“We’ll look at new music in a wide range of styles—new contemporary hymns, Praise & Worship, and everything in between,” says Longhurst. “The goal is to help leaders find ways to bridge the stylistic gaps that often exist in congregations.”

This year’s workshop will also include a look at the recent resurgence of traditional hymnody.

“Many of today’s contemporary songwriters are drawing from traditional hymn sources for their inspiration,” Longhurst says. “We’ll take time to look at these new trends.”

The workshop is also “a chance to interact with song leaders and worship leaders from other congregations who face similar challenges and opportunities,” she adds.

New Songs for Worship is presented by CMU, with sponsorship from the Mennonite Brethren Church Manitoba, Go Mission!/EMMC, and Mennonite Church Manitoba. Cost of the workshop is $35 ($25 for additional registrants from the same congregation). Students and seniors are $20. For more information, or to register, contact Cori Braun at or 204-487-3300.

A second New Songs for Worship workshop is planned for January 25, 2014 in Winkler, MB.