There was a little bit more Gospel to Pastor David Tilley’s service last Sunday.
The First Presbyterian Church preacher saw an extra member join his congregation on that day. That special guest did more than simply listen and worship during his brief visit, however. He inspired those in attendance with his sharp and precise talents, which the man had no issue sharing with the crowd.
After all, this wasn’t the first time James Stewart had performed inside the venue.
“This is my second time here,” admitted the pianist.
His first appearance at First Presbyterian had taken place just under one year prior. Stewart had been booked for a wedding at the church. The performance went so well that the mother of the bride actually helped to orchestrate his return Stewart played just three songs during this particular service. He started early into the service with How Great Thou Art, returning to the piano bench later into the morning, playing Holy is Thy Name and We are an Offering to conclude the day’s worship. All of those titles hold a special place in Stewart’s heart, especially his opening number.
“That was one of the songs I called and asked for permission to use,” claimed Stewart, referencing his recording of the musical number to one of his albums.
It wouldn’t be the last song the Wauseon native would record, however.
Over the course of his career, Stewart has produced five C.D.s for the listening pleasure of his audience. His latest offering, This is my Story, This is my Song, recorded in 2010, is one in which he is quite proud.
“I believe this is one of my best releases over the years.”
The album took two days in a Nashville, TN studio to complete. It featured four other musicians, two engineers, and a producer in addition to Stewart himself. That effort was far more elaborate than his original disc, which he recorded in a Bryan studio in the year 2000.
The song was called Majesty, and it’s what inspired Stewart to put his music onto a C.D. in the first place. He was introduced to it at his own church at the time, as it proved rather difficult for the performers to take in.
“We kept learning it and learning it,” recalled Stewart.
But it was that endeavor that motivated him to record music. Among the tracks of his earliest release, Majesty is listed.
Yet, Stewart’s experience with the piano go far beyond his albums. The licensed emergency medical technician of twenty-three years began to learn the way of the keys in his childhood, at the tender age of ten. His lessons spanned eight years, and helped to pave the way for a lifetime of music, beginning immediately after high school.
“After I graduated, I started traveling with some local groups,” Stewart remembered.
That’s something he still does today. As a member of the quartet The Messengers, based in Pettisville, Stewart has been known to tour from Berne, Indiana to Montpelier.
He’s counted himself a member of the group since 1982.
All of his efforts have led to a great deal of recognition within the Christian and Gospel music community. Stewart has opened for a few well known brands in the genre, including Greater Vision, The Greens, and The Nelons. Warming up many an audience prior to these feature attractions taking the stage, he takes the stage roughly a half hour beforehand to play through his own music.
Already an accomplished musician, it’s hard to say what the future has in store for Stewart. In fact, even he isn’t sure what will be his next undertaking.
“I leave that up to God,” Stewart confessed, “He knows what He wants.”
He does plan on returning to the First Presbyterian Church of Montpelier, however.
“I’ll probably be back here next year.”
And Pastor Tilley, along with his congregation, will surely welcome him back with open arms.
T.J. Hug can be reached at