During Homecoming Weekend 2006, the Church-Chapel filled with Mary Oyer enthusiasts, ready to celebrate her life and contributions to church-related music at a Mary Oyer Celebration. Alums, friends, colleagues and students sang with gusto as she led hymns and afterward filled the hallway waiting to purchase the just-released book honoring Oyer, Nurturing Spirit Through Song: The Life of Mary K. Oyer (Jan. 2007, Cascadia, Mennonite Media Productions) edited by Rebecca Slough ’78 and Shirley Sprunger King, and companion DVD (Mennonite Media Productions).
The book and DVD thoroughly document how Oyer ’45, professor emerita of music (1945-87), has influenced so many people at the college, in the church and around the world because of her deep passion for church music and her openness to expanding her understandings. Through essays by and interviews with Oyer’s former students and colleagues, as well as her own writings and interviews, readers and viewers learn about the flow of her life, her views on music in worship, her experiences with music in other countries and her philosophy on leading hymns.
And as the crowd sang the Doxology (formerly number 606 in the Mennonite Hymnal) at the end of the celebration, with Oyer again leading – as she has so often – it was a reminder that it was she who introduced the hymn at a Mennonite convention years earlier – what has become the icon of many Mennonites’ love for four-part harmony. She has nurtured many a spirit!