I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Saturday, March 26, 2016


Anthony Showalter studied music in England, France, and Germany.  He taught music and published over 130 music books.

On one particular day, he received letters from two former students.  Each letter bore similar, heartbreaking news; both men's wives had just died.

Image result for leaning rhinoHe responded with personal letters of encouragement and comfort, and he included these words from Deut. 33:27 in his comments: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

About that verse, Mr. Showalter told a friend, “Before completing the writing of the sentence, the thought came to me that the fact that we may lean on those everlasting arms and find comfort and strength ought to be put into a song.  And before finishing the letter, the words and music of the refrain were written.”

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms.
Leaning, leaning; leaning on the everlasting arms.

That initial work on the song was later sent to the hymn writer, Elisha Hoffman, who added the three stanzas to the hymn;

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms.
Leaning, leaning; leaning on the everlasting arms.

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