Songs in His Presence... Only by His Grace
By Jane Terwilliger
I kept staring at the sheet of music. Like a magnet, the melody and lyrics of Ed’s song on my dining room table were silently drawing me into the beauty of God, a sweetness of truth and love. As my heart overflowed, I knew this music was a gift to be shared.
I ponder the somewhat amazing and short history of “Songs In His Presence,” a Christian music company put under my care by trusting friends and, I believe, inspired by the Lord himself.
Who would have thought just three years ago that I would help the deep worship of communities birthed in Ann Arbor to be shared across the globe, on air and through the web, via recordings and printed music…only by His grace?
One December, in prayer in our parish’s Eucharistic Adoration Chapel on the feast of the Immaculate Conception it all began by surprise…in a life-changing infusion of power, not unlike an explosion.
It was a calling directed to me, a lowly assistant parish music director, music teacher, wife and mother: to prepare printed arrangements of the beloved Psalm settings from our parish to be shared with the wider church. It included promises of God sending many helpers, guiding me every step of the way, and the grace to distill the precious spirit of worship which I had treasured for 30 years in renewal community.
What followed was the most amazing time of my life; a profound presence of the Holy Spirit, the peaceful prioritizing of family and service, and miraculous appearances of “time available.”
I have been awed and humbled since then about how God chooses to work through Songs In His Presence.
Through prayer and consultations, in 2004 we took bolder actions, creating a label and publishing company. Our homemade demos were followed by two simultaneous professional-level recordings, with piano/guitar songbooks. “Psalms” and “Taken by Love” included responsorial Psalms for Mass, and new songs of praise and worship.
I was privileged to sit in the producer’s chair and witness the Holy Spirit at work in the Body of Christ through awesome songwriters and musicians who came to contribute. The following summer, 2005, we found ourselves at the National Pastoral Musicians convention in Milwaukee, sharing our music with church musicians from across the country. Established Catholic artists and church music directors were interested and inspired, some writing back that our materials were among the best available.
More helpers and words of thanks followed, and so did our third CD and songbooks, “Held by Love.” After months of preparation and eagerness, the morning of our first recording session brought me a sense of uncertainty, even doubt. As I expressed my feelings of inadequacy to Jesus in prayer at the tabernacle, my cell phone buzzed.
I did not recognize the long distance number. It was Thom Price, of EWTN, calling to encourage us to keep doing what we were doing, warmly praising our first two recordings. I thanked him (and Jesus) for such a personal encouragement exactly when I needed it!
“Held by Love” has since been nominated for several awards by the UCMVA and has transformed the prayer life of many people. People most often share how deeply they are moved by God’s profound love conveyed through our songs and recordings.
Watching God work, and learning to join Him has been an astounding journey for me.
I’m seeing that its challenges, as with any apostolate, require daily surrender, trust and determination. A quieter season of prayer is currently preparing us for future projects. May they all truly be “Songs In His Presence!”
See and hear more at www.SongsInHisPresence.com.