Eric Hanson practices his favorite worship songs at the piano in the Hosanna Church’s sanctuary. (Amanda Komulainen)

A Renaissance man, Eric Hanson is both a pastor and an accomplished musician. His repertoire includes more than 200 classic- and contemporary-style songs, self-recorded Praise and Worship albums, and proficiency in six instruments. In both capacities, he has served his community, caught the attention of his home state, and carried a message of hope and redemption throughout New England. He has served as senior pastor of Hosanna Church in Welchville, Maine, since 2016 and still performs local concerts whenever he gets the chance.

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I’m a Mainer. I have been my whole life. I was born at Maine Medical Center on April 3, 1954. I am one of 11 children, as both my mother and my father were married previously to marrying each other. I have a younger sister, a younger brother, and eight older half-siblings.

My dad used to be a big-time musician in New York City. Back then, he was in everything from Dixie Land Jazz to large choral productions which were broadcast on national radio. He loved it all. When I was growing up, he ran an orchestra and gave music lessons, so he was working day and night during the week as well as on weekends.

My mom was a schoolteacher. A lot of her time at home was taken up with lesson plans, correcting papers, and all that stuff. We sort of raised ourselves. Because both my dad and my mom were working full-time, they weren’t around much. There was a lady who lived with us so she could babysit when we kids would get home from school and my parents were both at work.

My parents each instilled two passions in me during my childhood that remain to this day: a love of the water and a love of music. I love a lot of the music from my dad’s day, from before I was born.

It was through high school that Nancy and I met. We were classmates, but we didn’t like each other. In fact, we judged each other. I thought she was the goodie little Baptist girl and she thought I was a hippie.
At the age of 14, during my freshman year, a couple of my musical fanatic buddies and I decided that rock music would be our ticket to fame and fortune. Originally, it was just us three. The band grew and shrunk through the years, but there were always about three involved. It was just one of those dreams kids have.

Even though two of my friends from the band grew up in Bible-believing church backgrounds, we were heathens. In the music scene, I was surrounded by drugs and drunkenness all the time. Even though I wasn’t a Christian back then, somehow, I despised it. A couple of people I cared about very much suffered such brain damage from LSD use that their personalities were permanently altered. I get emotional just thinking about it sometimes.

We played in the Maine State Building at Poland Springs, and we played our own dances in town. We were also hired to play in New Hampshire, and we did pretty well in a battle of the bands. Let’s just say the getting rich thing never happened. We made enough money to go back and forth and pay for supper. As it always happens when kids get older, one went this direction, another went that way, and finally, the band broke up.

My senior year of high school, everything changed. I had some good Christian friends who kept inviting me to church, youth group, and other stuff. They told me that if I came to church reliably, I could play on the church softball team during the summer and the church basketball team during the winter. They had me, as far as attendance goes.

It was at a youth rally just after I turned 18 that the Lord got me in the heart. I realized I was headed to hell and I needed a savior. I accepted Jesus Christ before the end of the event.

I went off to Bible College, and while I was there, the Lord tampered with my feelings about music. I had been told when I was younger that church has no place for a guitar. I’d also always assumed that “Christian music” was just three hymns in church on Sunday, but at Bible College, I discovered the big world of Christian music. I jumped in with both feet and began writing songs.

By September 1974, I had been home from Bible College for three months when I connected with Hosanna Church, which had been founded that January. A couple of years afterward, Nancy and I began getting to know each other, starting with meeting for coffee at a Christian coffeehouse. We were each on our own and made some pretty dumb mistakes, but we realized that we had totally misjudged each other. We almost didn’t get together, but I’m so glad we did. We were married that March.

Together with our friend Dallas Henry’s son, Tim, we started a music group called Rejoice. Rejoice had various people in it, but there were always at least three of us so we could get that three-part harmony. We always did a mix of old and new styles of music – traditional, rock, gospel – you name it.

I became an ordained staff pastor at Hosanna in 1982 and have served in many different capacities ever since. I’ve led the worship team, Vision New England, and pastor’s groups. I’ve taught music at Christian schools and given private lessons and concerts all over the place.

It was wonderful working as a co-pastor with Dallas Henry for 34 years. Once I became the solo pastor, my workload became very full-time, so there was no longer any time for teaching and giving lessons. These days, there are three major commitments in my life after the Lord: 1) my family, 2) pastoring the church, and 3) continuing my involvement in music. My goal in music is to share Christ through it.

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