Mom Music Spotlight
to a sample from In Your Presence
A Heart Full of Song and Service
Catholic Music Spotlight Interview with Chuck Stevens
By Lisa M. Hendey
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 Catholic 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 for the
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
Please tell our readers about yourself, your family, and your own faith
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
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
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
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
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: Just that our faith tradition in the Catholic
Church is so full of treasures - some ancient and some more recent. One of
the documents to come out of the Second Vatican Council was “Gaudium et
Spes” which I'm sure many Catholics have not read (or even heard of).
It's such a treasury of inspirations for living in the modern world. In
particular, a simplified translation I read stresses that we who have means,
should give to the poor out of our sustenance, not simply our 'left-overs'.
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
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