A Heart Full of Song and Service
Christian Music Spotlight Interview with Chuck Stevens
By Lisa M. Hendey
When we open our hearts and Your Word sets them free
We become as You call us to be
When we share Your compassion, Your mercy and love
We are standing in Your presence O Lord
In Your Presence, Chuck Stevens
Imagine meeting a talented recording artist who’s looking to give away most of the profits from his CD sales, whose greatest hope is that he can use his small talents to bring praise and worship to God, not himself. You’ve just met Chuck Stevens, police officer, husband, father of five and Christian songwriter.
Chuck Stevens is one of those people I find most inspiring – the ones who don’t just have good intentions, but who look around themselves and take proactive steps to make this world a better place. Having recorded his first CD, In Your Presence, Stevens now works with parishes, church projects and charities to raise needed funds through the sales of his music. Active in his home parish, Stevens is currently in the second of his four years of preparation to become a deacon in his church.
In Your Presence is a compilation of ten songs, penned and sung by Stevens. The lyrics are simple and inspiring and the music is an acoustic folk style that makes for great listening. My personal favorite is the title track, In Your Presence, which encapsulates Stevens’ commitment to serving Christ through our compassionate service to those around us.
I’m pleased to share the following conversation with Chuck Stevens, and encourage you to visit his web site and support his music ministry.
Q: Please tell our readers about yourself, your family, and your own faith journey.
A: I'm a very fortunate individual. God has blessed me with Kathi, my wonderful wife of 19 years and we have been blessed with (and by) five great kids, (three boys Sean, David , Chris; and two girls Jessica and Kelly) ranging in age from 8 to 16 years . I have finished the second of four years of study for the permanent diaconate, and am actively involved in music ministry, catechetics, and other activities within our home parish, in Petrolia, Ontario (Canada).
The Church has always been an important part of our family life; in fact, Church has always been our main social outlet/connection since we move around quite regularly. I'm a 'cradle Catholic' having been raised in a traditional Catholic home, born while the Second Vatican Council was sitting, so I grew up with all the changes while still being influenced by the traditions of the Church which my parents cherished. My relationship with Jesus has always been important to me, even as a teen when I (as most teenagers do) started questioning everything. God continued to grant me the grace to feel His presence regularly.
Perhaps in the past I didn't recognize this, but with the continuing of my studies, I have found that a more intense prayer life and setting more time aside for Scripture and quiet 'listening' have drawn me into a deeper relationship with God. This has translated itself into music. It's quite funny actually - as a teen I played in a church folk group, and then matured (or so I thought) into playing in pubs. I was playing in clubs and bars about 25 years ago, met my wife Kathi, who became my manager, then my best friend, then my wife. Shortly after that, I broke my left hand and figured, “there goes the music biz”. I resigned from the musician's union and didn't pursue any other music jobs. About a year later, a small rural parish we belonged to wanted someone to accompany a group of children so they could sing at the Christmas Eve Children's Mass. Kathi persuaded me that I wanted to do this (even though I hadn't played at all since breaking my hand)...it wasn't until she pointed it out to me - I haven't played anywhere except churches and church functions in the 25 years since then. Now I'm not suggesting for a minute “God broke my hand”; but it just shows me how the Holy Spirit takes our circumstances to lead us, if we follow, where God wants us to use our talents.
Q: Please share the story of what inspired you to create your CD, In Your Presence.
A: I had worked on a number of songs over the past couple of years that never seemed to get finished, or that I could fill in. I had bits of melodies, bits of verse, but nothing really tangible. During our diaconal studies' year end retreat in Oxley, Ontario, we spent the Friday evening in a meditative exercise, then retired to our rooms for quiet time. During the course of that evening, I finished three songs that I had been working on over the years, and came up with three more. In fact, we used two of those at the Sunday liturgy that weekend. One was "In Your Presence'. As I felt the Holy Spirit's presence very strongly that weekend, particularly as the music just seemed to 'flow' Friday evening, I felt there was more than just a grace from God of finishing a few songs. I came away with the conviction that Lord wanted me to use this gift, freely given to me, to help others come to praise, worship and serve God, and to help out churches and ministries wherever and however I could. This led to another thought 'out of the blue' that if I could record the music, then it could be used by others for worship, prayer or just listening. In addition, I felt urged to use the music to raise funds for churches and ministries. I have a day job which helps me to provide for my family (I'm a police officer), the music is a gift from God, which I feel, allows me to participate in God's providence to others.
I was fortunate enough to meet up with Bob Hiltz, a Christian gentleman who operates a EyreSpace Studios in Chatham, Ontario. (God sure works in mysterious ways) who listened to my story of how God let me write some songs, and how I wanted to use the music to help others. The Spirit was moving that day, because Bob quickly agreed to take on this challenge with me, and the first 10 songs were recorded for “In Your Presence".
Q: What inspires your music and how does your faith impact upon your creative process?
A: My faith has a huge impact on my particular creative process. Take God out of the equation and I may as well hang up my guitar.
God's Word is a continual source of inspiration to me. There is so much written in Sacred Scripture, that every composer that ever lived combined could never write a song on every insight that the Bible provides. Usually, I either meditate on a particular passage, or quietly contemplate portions of the Liturgy of the Hours, or writings of some of the greats of Catholic literature, past and present (Henri Nouwen, Ronald Rolheiser, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. John of the Cross). The themes just seem to progress from these. Sometimes the melody is one that I've been working around as I go about my day, and I feel driven to match it to the theme that has resulted from my prayer or reading.
It actually makes me a little uncomfortable to say “I wrote this" or "I wrote that". I think it's more appropriate to say God inspired this, and I was just blessed enough to be there when it happened.
Q: Do you have a personal favorite song on the CD?
A: I think from a prayer standpoint, "Freely for You" (a repetitive Eucharistic hymn which we use at my parish and the seminary) would be 'up there'.
I feel some loyalty to the title track "In Your Presence" as it was the song that started it all along.
Mind you, I would have to say my real favorite on the CD is "Parable Song" which was inspired by God and my kids (who ask lots of questions about the Bible).
Q: I know that you are involved in studies for a vocation in the permanent diaconate. Has your music lent to this call to vocation? What are your hopes for your service as a Deacon?
A: All Christians are called to be of service to each other, to the poor in our midst. But in a very visible and permanent way, deacons are called to bring Christ's presence to the poor, the marginalized, the disadvantaged, and to be of service both inside and outside the Church as ordained ministers in the world. I see this music as an extension of that service, in (hopefully) bringing others closer to God, while using it as a vehicle to help fund ministries to the poor inside and outside parishes.
I used to think I would really like to work with youth (that was me telling God what I thought I should do), but did an outreach placement this past year in a senior's residence/nursing home instead. I didn't think I could be effective or was cut out for this, but you know, it's amazing to me how God leads us somewhere and teaches us something - if we're willing to listen and learn. Of the many things I learned from this experience , one thing stands out - as long as I'm mindful of Jesus working in my life, then I'll serve wherever God wants me...be that with music, counseling, prayer, listening- wherever.
Q: What are your goals for In His Presence and how can readers order the CD?
A: I just want to use the CD to help God's people.
I've had the opportunity to play at a number of parishes around southwestern Ontario, with CD sales at the concerts to successfully to raise funds for youth ministries in parishes, for assistance to food banks, and parish building funds.
In addition, I have a special place in my heart for St. Peter's Seminary, not only because it is where I am pursuing diaconal studies, but because of the training it provides for future priests from Canada and a number of other countries around the world. Profits from online and retail CD sales are going to the seminary on an ongoing basis.
Your readers can check out the retail locations or online shopping to order the CD through my website www.smalltalentmusic.com and just follow the link to 'buy the CD'.
Q: Do you have any plans for future recording projects?
A: Actually I'm in the process of heading back to the studio with Bob to work on some Christmas and Advent music that also started up during the retreat last year, and was added to during this year's retreat. I've always trusted Kathi's judgment in terms of what and when I should play, so she and God must know something I don't (yet). Beyond that, I have more songs in store, with no definite plans for them yet.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?
A: I think if each of us took the time to even pick up one small extra grocery item for a food bank on shopping day, made some donation to a shelter, took some time to visit the elderly, or committed some other act of kindness, and did it with the right heart (God-centered), we would be a sign of Christ to the world, and would be more open to see Christ in others.
For more information about Chuck Stevens and his CD In His Presence visit www.smalltalentmusic.com
Lisa M. Hendey is webmaster of www.CatholicMom.com and www.christiancoloring.com, a wife and mother of two and a Christian music fan and supporter. Visit her at www.LisaHendey.com for more information