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History of Hymns by Lucy Neeley Adams: “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” Tags: Christian hymns Jesus

Tell me the stories of Jesus

Summer days or school days, nothing to do, boring day, all were thoughts of my early years. In spite of much fun stuff, I began many pages in my fourth grade diary with the title, “Boring Day.”

My school friend of many years ago agrees. “Yes, those were my feelings too,” Sally remembered. “It was all slightly boring.” Then we often discuss our years of teaching and laugh when we wonder if we too had students who shared our same thoughts about their studies.

Those thoughts are of public school. Sunday school was quite different. I was blessed with great Christian leaders who were committed to children. Their lessons have often been remembered as I grow in my faith.

That was certainly true of a Sunday school class that Mr. William Parker taught. Sensing that the students were restless, he put away all the materials and began to tell them a story. It worked every time. Quickly they became quiet and attentive.

Later that afternoon after church, Parker thought about the countless times his students had said,

“Please tell us another story.” Suddenly an idea flashed into his mind, and he gathered his thoughts and arranged them in a poem: “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.”

With those first words as a beginning, he continued to write with vivid description about many events in Jesus’ life. The verses explain what it must have felt like to be blessed at his knee, to sing glad hosannas while waving palm branches and to stand at the cross of bitter pain.

William H. Parker was born in Nottinghamshire, England, on March 4, 1845 and died there in 1929.

He worked for an insurance company and was a dedicated Christian layman in his home church, Chelsea Street Baptist.

A friend described him as a person who was “quiet in demeanor, kindly in disposition, always trying to see the best in others. He was one of God’s true gentlemen respected and loved by all.”

Parker’s poem, “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” was written to honor the devotion of the pupils he taught each Sunday. It was not used as a hymn for several years because it had no music. The beautiful melody, written by Frederick A. Challinor, was chosen as a result of a competition held by the Sunday School Union of the Church of England in 1903.

This hymn is dear to me because Sunday school thoughts flood my memory whenever I hear it. My teacher, Jane McDonald, was a petite woman who had a light of happiness on her face when she told us stories of Jesus. Reading them in the Bible was not as exciting as when she told them. She wanted us to feel what the people felt when they were with him.

Jesus told his disciples that the children who eagerly came to him were an example for all: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15).

That makes me wonder: When I was a child who attended Sunday school and eagerly listened to my teacher, was I receiving the kingdom of God? Yes, because I responded and received him as my Lord and Savior. As an adult, I continue to be eager to hear and obey all of the glorious stories of Jesus.


Parts of this story are from Lucy Adams’ book, 52 Hymn Story Devotions

Lucy Adams

Lucy Adams In 1984 in Nashville, Tennessee I began to write answers for the question, “Why do people write songs?” Those stories first appeared on a radio program that I created: THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG aired on Christian radio station WWGM.

The program began as I sang six words, “I Love to Tell the Story” and said: “Hi friends, this is Lucy Adams and I tell the story behind the song.” I continued the show for five minutes with a message that answered … who, what, where and why of the hymn – plus a verse or two of the music. These programs continued to play for many years in various towns in Tennessee. Visit my blog to learn more about the stories of our favorite hymns at https://www.52hymns.com/about.htm

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