A hymn a day keeps COVID despair away

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming next: a Kentucky woman’s mission to replace some of the loneliness and ache of lockdown with lyrics and music that encourage.

WORLD’s Paul Butler brings her story.

MARBARA STIVERS: My name is Marbara Stivers. I live in Louisville, Kentucky. I’m 67. I have two children who live in New York City. My husband and I’ve been married  37 years at the end of this month. I homeschooled our children. And I’ve been a librarian for 29 years at our church. And I sing in church now. And so that’s, that’s about it.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Well, that’s not quite it. 252 days ago, Marbara Stivers sat down at her piano, turned on her phone, and started recording. 

AUDIO: Ok, it is April 1st, 2020, and this is the first edition of Musical Moments with Marbara…

[MUSIC] You can sing along. LYRICS: This is my Father’s world…

MARBARA STIVERS: Back at the beginning of April, I was just praying and asking God what I could do to help connect and encourage. And he said, “Sing,” so I said, OK. 

Stivers started by singing some of her sacred favorites and posting them to Facebook. She usually included a Scripture passage or other devotional thought as well. Initially, the technology was a steep learning curve.

AUDIO: Ready for another Musical Moments with Marbara? I did this one yesterday, and tried to upload it for about five hours yesterday and today and it would not load, so I’m trying again…

About five weeks into the daily posting, Stivers was organizing a bookshelf and came across a book a friend had given her: Near to the Heart of God by Robert Morgan. It features stories behind many old hymns.  

MARBARA STIVERS: I thought, Oh, well, I’m still doing this, I’ll just do it the way he’s doing it. So I started going day by day and trying to find the songs that he was referencing.

AUDIO: From time to time I might be reading the stories of those. Here we go…like I said this is a different tune.


Stiver comes from a musical family. And hymns have been a part of her life ever since she was a girl learning the piano.

MARBARA STIVERS: My dad and I used to play Name that Hymn. He would be in the kitchen, and I would be at the piano and I would play through the hymnal. And he would yell out what song it was from the kitchen. 

AUDIO: Hello, welcome to another Musical Moments with Marbara. This is number 50! And, I had no idea when I started this that at day 50 I would still be doing this…

For more than eight months now, she’s posted a hymn or chorus every day. 

MARBARA STIVERS: I’m an introvert. And this is just a perfect way for me to connect at my own pace, and other people can listen when they want or not. 

Stivers hasn’t missed a single day, though sometimes she’s recorded more than one at a time.  

MARBARA STIVERS: There was one day when I knew I had some things coming up. So I did three in one day, I just changed clothes because I felt if they see me in the same clothes two days in a row, they’ll wonder if they had already watched that one. So for 125 days, I think I wore a different outfit every day. But that made it to the end of the closet. So then I had to start over.

Social media has gotten a lot of bad press recently, but Stivers is committed to using it to encourage her family and friends with songs of the faith. 

AUDIO: Welcome to another Musical Moments with Marbara, this is day 100.


MARBARA STIVERS: I have relatives that listen every day, my mother listens every night before she goes to bed. I have friends from college and elementary school and high school and from all over the place that do listen, every day. 

And she’s found that what started as an outreach to others, has encouraged her as well. 

MARBARA STIVERS: You know, it also gave a purpose. Especially at the beginning…that was one thing I could accomplish every day. And so it’s it’s, I hope it has encouraged others, but it’s been a good thing for me too.

AUDIO: Hello, welcome to another Musical Moments with Marbara. This is day 200.


Stivers admits there’s an additional personal reason she’s kept at it all these months. She hopes someday, her grandkids will be able to see it.

MARBARA STIVERS: Maybe some of these will still be around, and they can have some memory of their grandmother singing. I remember my grandmother singing at the piano and quoting poetry as I was growing up. And so that has sort of been in the back of my mind, too. 

As another wave of illness leads many states and local governments to restrict public gatherings, families are facing tough choices about upcoming holiday gatherings. Stivers says people need encouragement today, perhaps more than ever. And as long as that’s the case, she’ll keep playing and singing. 

MARBARA STIVERS: One hymn that sort of illustrates, I guess what my philosophy would be. The song would be Little Is Much When God is in It. I was thinking you know, well I’m not a great pianist and I’m not an award winning vocalist or anything but when God said sing, I said yes, so that’s that it.


Reporting for WORLD, I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Marbara Stivers, Facebook)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “A hymn a day keeps COVID despair away

  1. Anna Stroud says:

    The link doesn’t work😕 Could y’all fix that because I would love to listen to Musical Moments with Marbara often? Thank you!

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