Tag Archives: Brian Stevenson

Hymn History: Tell Out My Soul/Be Still, My Soul

The above is the melody to Finlandia by Jean Sibelius, which is commonly used for “Tell Out, My Soul” as well as “Be Still, My Soul”.

“Tell Out My Soul” by Joel Raney was sung at Pender’s 2022 Christmas Cantata by Laura Connors, soprano and Brian Stevenson, baritone

The main melody was based on Finlandia, a tone poem by Jean Sibelius.

From the publisher: This paraphrase of the Song of Mary calls for Christians to proclaim the greatness of the Lord, the greatness of his name, the greatness of his might, and the greatness of his word. For soprano and baritone solo with choir backup, this piece is equally effective with piano accompaniment or full orchestra. It originally appeared in Mary McDonald and Joel Raney’s best-selling Christmas musical, Sing Christmas.

Special thanks to the Sanctuary Choir, Liz Sellers, accompanist, Brian Stevenson, director and the Orchestra: Gwyn Jones, flute; Jeff Kahan, oboe; Alisha Coleman, clarinet; Jeanne Kim, violin; Sean Wittmer, violin; Ethan Chien, viola and Kyle Ryu-cello for all the effort in presenting Pender’s Christmas Cantata!

More from the Christmas Cantata at

The Finlandia hymn refers to a serene hymn-like section of the patriotic symphonic poem Finlandia, written in 1899 and 1900 by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was later re-worked by the composer into a stand-alone piece.

Finlandia used in Be Still My Soul:


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Christmas Music, Part 18: Harp Music for Christmas

Brian Stevenson Plays Harp Music.

Brian Stevenson, Director of Music Ministries at Pender UMC, plays harp music for the holiday season.

Some of his selections are Ding Dong Merrily On High, Angels We Have Heard On High and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.


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Hymn History: As The Deer

“As the Deer” by Martin Nystrom,
The Faith We Sing, No. 2025

The Pender UMC Traditional Service Middle Hymn “As the Deer” on Sunday September 18, 2022 was played by Liz Eunji Moon on piano, accompanied on guitar by Brian Stevenson and AJ Rios and sung the Pender Sanctuary Choir and congregation.

“As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1, NKJV)*

On his website,, the composer introduces himself in self-effacing terms:

“I am a married father of two sons and live in the Seattle area. My degree is in music education and I have taught music in a wide variety of settings. I have written over 120 songs that have been released by publishers of Christian praise and worship music. My best known song is the worship chorus, ‘As the Deer.’” He notes that, “I seem to write songs when I am not purposefully trying to write one.”

“As the deer,” written in 1981, is one of the most popular songs in the contemporary Christian musical (CCM) genre written in the latter twentieth century. Martin J. Nystrom (b. 1956) is a native of Seattle, Washington. After graduating from Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma (BME, 1979), he served as musical evangelist with Christ for the Nations, Dallas, Texas [] and produced five praise and worship albums for Hosanna! Music, Mobile, Alabama.

Lindsay Terry, in his book The Sacrifice of Praise: The Stories Behind the Greatest Praise and Worship Songs of All Time(2002), describes the circumstances surrounding the creation of this song:

“Marty was a schoolteacher in Seattle, and since he had the summer off, he decided to go to the summer term of Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas. Little did he know what was about to happen to him, especially with all that he would be exposed to and the worship emphasis of the school. . .

He had graduated from Oral Roberts University and, frankly, was a little overwhelmed in ministry. He had been involved in many things at the school, not the least of which was the television ministry of ORU. All of his studies combined with many other activities had caused stress to take its toll on Marty’s spiritual life. . . .

Marty’s roommate at CFNI was a vibrant Christian who challenged Marty to go on a fast, thinking it would help him recover his joy. Marty took up the challenge, and on the nineteenth day of the fast, he found himself sitting at the piano in a room of the school, trying to write a song. He was simply playing chord progressions when he noticed a Bible on the music stand of the piano, open to Psalm 42. His eyes fell on the first verse of that chapter. After reading the verse he began to sing its message, right off the page. He wrote the first verse and the chorus of a song, practically straight through. The entire song was completed in a matter of minutes.”

Though Mr. Nystrom had not intended to perform the song publically, he shared it with a friend at Christ for the Nations before returning to Seattle. His friend introduced it to the others at the Institute, and it became a favorite. Contrary to his website, the composer appears to have written closer to 250 songs. He travels extensively in the United States and Asia, participating in conferences and retreats.

After paraphrasing the first verse of Psalm 42, the song reflects on this passage, continuing in the first person perspective of the psalm:

You alone are my heart’s desire
and I long to worship you.

The second section draws upon the familiar biblical images of “strength and shield,” concluding with the sentence cited above.

Most of Mr. Nystrom’s songs are composed as a single stanza. The compilers of the Canadian United Church hymnal Voices United (1995) asked Lydia Pederson to write two additional stanzas to paraphrase the remainder of the psalm. Pedersen is former music director at Royal York Road United Church in Toronto, and an active member of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. An additional attempt at two stanzas appears in the Covenant Hymnal: A Worshipbook(1996).

The editors of the two hymnals that requested additional stanzas noted that the original song felt incomplete when viewed in the context of the entire psalm. Selections of Psalm 42 follow:
“My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? (verses 2, 3, KJV) . . .

“I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (verses 9, 10, 11, KJV).

On the one hand, the effectiveness of the original song is found in its simplicity; the singer can internalize and memorize the song, offering this sung prayer directly to God. On the other hand, the poignant questions of the remainder of the psalm echo the questions of many worshipers in their lives. Singing additional stanzas, however, changes the experience from a simple prayer to God to the experience similar to singing a multi-stanza hymn. One solution is to retain Mr. Nystrom’s original stanza and insert it between spoken sections of the psalm as a refrain.

Regardless of the approach to incorporating the song into worship, one cannot deny the effectiveness of “As the deer” as sung prayer in myriad settings around the world. Mr. Nystrom attended a conference in Korea in the 1990s that began with 100,000 Korean Christians singing his song – a dramatic witness of its power.

*Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

C. Michael Hawn is University Distinguished Professor of Church Music, Perkins School of Theology, SMU.

Adapted from

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Posted by on November 10, 2022 in Hymn History, hymns, Posts of Interest, Videos


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Hymn History: Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling

“Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling”
Will Thompson UM Hymnal, No. 348

The Pender UMC Traditional Service Final Hymn “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” on Sunday September 11, 2022 was played by Liz Eunji Moon on piano, accompanied on guitar by Brian Stevenson and sung the Pender Sanctuary Choir and congregation.

Undoubtedly, many readers of this column grew up in a revival tradition that included an extended invitation hymn—a congregational hymn at the conclusion of the service that focused on those attending who may be called by the Holy Spirit to make either a profession of faith or a recommitment of one’s life. In services of this nature, the direction of the entire liturgy points to the sermon and this time of commitment. Our hymn is a classic invitation hymn from the 19th-century revival tradition.

Will Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909) was born in Pennsylvania and died in New York City. He attended Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, before continuing his musical studies in Leipzig, Germany.

In addition to being a composer of secular, patriotic and gospel songs, Thompson was a music publisher. When his songs were rejected by publishers of his day, he formed his own enterprise, Will L. Thompson & Company, with offices in Chicago and East Liverpool, Ohio. By the 1880s the company expanded beyond publishing music and sold pianos, organs and other instruments and supplies.

The words and music for “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” first appeared in Sparkling Gems, Nos. 1 and 2, a collection compiled for Thompson’s company in 1880 by singing-school teacher J. Calvin Bushey.

Other well-known gospel songs by Thompson include “Jesus Is All the World to Me” (UM Hymnal, No. 469), and two with strong eschatological leanings, Lead Me Gently Home, Father” and “There’s a Great Day Coming.”

UM Hymnal editor, the Rev. Carlton R. Young, notes: “This is a typical lullaby in the gospel hymn tradition that characterizes Jesus as a mother, gently rocking and comforting a child. This attribute contributes to the continuing popularity of this genre of religious song that presents Jesus as waiting, caring, and forgiving in intimate—and for many, compelling—metaphors.”

Perhaps Revelation 3:20 captures the spirit of the hymn: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (KJV) This patient Jesus stands “on the portals . . . waiting and watching . . . for you and for me.”

The second stanza takes a different approach: How can we reject the “pleading” one who offers “pardon”? The third stanza increases in urgency: “Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing . . . shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming. . . .” The final stanza returns to the theme of Jesus who offers “mercy and pardon” for the sinner.

The genius of a gospel song is usually found in the refrain and this one is no exception. The refrain extends the invitation to “come home” four times in the melody, and an additional two times in the accompanying lower voices.

Interestingly, though “Softly and Tenderly” is the quintessential invitation hymn in the revival tradition, the invitation to “come home” may also be seen as the invitation to join Jesus in heaven. Indeed, two examples attest to this: The hymn was used during the memorial service for assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on April 8, 1968. It was also a recurring song in The Trip to Bountiful (1985), an Oscar-winning movie about an older woman in the 1940s who wants to return one last time to her girlhood hometown of Bountiful.

Hymnologist Ernest Emurian told a story associated with this hymn: “When the world-renowned lay preacher, Dwight Lyman Moody, lay on his deathbed in his Northfield, Massachusetts, home, Will Thompson made a special visit to inquire as to his condition. The attending physician refused to admit him to the sickroom, and Moody heard them talking just outside the bedroom door. Recognizing Thompson’s voice, he called for him to come to his bedside. Taking the Ohio poet-composer by the hand, the dying evangelist said, ‘Will, I would rather have written “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.’”

Adapted from


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Hymn History: Out of the Depths

“Out of the Depths”
by Ruth Duck
The Faith We Sing, No. 2136.

The Pender UMC Traditional Service Middle Hymn “Out of the Depths” on Sunday September 4, 2022 was played by Eunji Moon on piano and sung by Brian Stevenson, the Pender Sanctuary Choir and congregation.

Central to biblical models of prayer is the practice of lament: crying out to God in pain, anguish, and grief. While examples of prayers of lament are found throughout the biblical witness and are particularly prevalent in the book of Psalms, too often we neglect lament in our worship.1 Bringing all our wounds to God shapes and forms us in honest relationship with our Creator, who loves us when we are far from perfection and is present with us in times of trouble. Hymns such as Ruth Duck’s “Out of the Depths” can help us reclaim lament in our worship.

“Out of the Depths” uses Psalm 130:1 as a springboard to name the things that plunge us into our own depths. While Psalm 130 is often seen as a confessional psalm, with its focus on redemption from iniquities,2 there are many things we hide away—our wounds, our scars, our traumas, our fears—and hiding these from ourselves and God stifles healing. “Out of the Depths” brings them forward through the practice of naming and lamenting in community. The first verse acknowledges the power of “wounds of the past” to affect our daily lives and the need for God’s love when we look at the full scope of our lives. The second verse leads us toward breaking silences that cloud the truth and keep us living in the fear of that which we have been too afraid to name.

While “Out of the Depths” encourages us to do our own individual work toward bringing our laments to God, it also lifts up the value of community in this healing process. While the first two stanzas both begin with “out of the depths,” all three stanzas end with “here in this community,” ensuring that the words most emphasized by repetition are not words of sorrow and isolation, but words of companionship. The second stanza also speaks to the safety and value of sharing difficult emotions among friends.

Almost all psalms of lament live in the tension between lament and praise. In fact, praise and expressions of confidence in God are seen as essential elements to the form of “lament”;3 many lament psalms end in praise (such as Psalm 13), or move back and forth constantly between lament and praise (Psalm 42).4 “Out of the Depths” leads us into praise in the final verse, painting a picture of a dancing God who moves through our lives as light in our darkness, meeting us with grace. The tune, FENNVILLE, is flexible enough to hold both tones—lament and praise—lending a strength and assurance to our words of praise. A bit of creativity in accompaniment can easily turn the final chord to a brighter tone.

The flexibility of this hymn conjures up possibilities for use outside the traditional context of singing the hymn straight-through in a service. Spoken prayer could easily be interspersed within the stanzas: naming specific kinds of pain present to those gathered, asking for assurance of God’s presence even in the depths, and thanking God for being revealed in community. It could easily be paired not only with Psalm 130, but also Psalm 139, in its assurance that there is no place anyone can go out of God’s reach—not even the depths.

While “Out of the Depths” leads us into lament in a way appropriate for many Sunday mornings, it is also a hymn to keep in mind in the unfortunate reality of times of crisis and tragic circumstances. The line, “Wounds of the past remain, affecting all we do,” acknowledges the impact such events have not only in the immediate aftermath, but throughout our lives. As such, this hymn could be particularly powerful when used in services of remembrance acknowledging anniversaries of events that have shaken communities.

“Out of the Depths” also has strong potential for use outside of a Sunday morning worship service. Ruth Duck has written alternate second lines for the first verse; one for those who are seriously ill (“Free us from fear of death, our faith and hope renew…”), and one for those who have been abused (“Words of abuse remain, affecting all we do…”) These reframe the hymn for more specific situations and could be useful in pastoral care situations as an opening or closing song for grief-sharing and support groups.

This is not surprising given the author’s interest in liturgical healing. A professor of worship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a strong presence in the academic liturgical community, and a prolific hymn text writer, Ruth Duck has written many hymns focused on healing and God’s ability to bring wholeness and restoration (such as “Sacred the Body,” “When We Must Bear Persistent Pain,” and “Womb of Life and Source of Being”). 5 “Out of the Depths” offers a way for us to give voice to our too often unspoken pain, celebrate community, and be assured of God’s grace which meets us wherever we are.

1 Duff, Nancy J. “Recovering Lamentation as a Practice in Church”, in Lament: Reclaiming Practices in Pulpit, Pew, and Public Square, ed. Sally A. Brown and Patrick D. Miller. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005. p 4.

2 ed. Martin Tel, Psalms for All Seasons, Grand Rapids: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2012. p 848.

3 Miller, Patrick D. They Cried to the Lord: the Form and Theology of Biblical Prayer. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994. p 55-133.

4 Psalm 88 is a notable expression of a lament psalm without praise.


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