Mystic Chapel (Press Release)
Our first album, Martyrs Prayers, asked the question, “What would you die for?” It was our small attempt of speaking musically to the issue of “cheap grace” as defined by one martyr in particular, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. From Ignatius of Antioch to Oscar Romero we considered those who had given their lives for the faith.
Our second album, Mystic Chapel, asks another question, “What if we still believed?”. We came to faith in a time when something was happening. It wasn’t programmed, it wasn’t planned, but it was real. The theology was not deep or profound and there was much that we needed to learn, but we believed, and that belief was translated into a movement that changed the Church, changed the style and substance of ministry, changed worship and changed music. It was a time when it seemed nothing was impossible.
As Martyrs Prayers garnered numerous favorable reviews and attracted a good deal of attention across an amazingly wide spectrum of both faith-based and secular media, we began connecting with all sorts of people from “back in the day”. Some were old friends, others were simply people with similar experiences. Some had remained active in varied faith communities, while others had no apparent affiliation whatsoever. Still others retained a deep faith, but were simply “done” with the Church - too many scandals, fund drives, intolerance, traditional/contemporary arguments, and all the rest. As we worked on music and design with numerous talented friends, artists and musicians of a younger generation, we saw the same phenomena - some involved in a faith community, some with no affiliation and some, while retaining a very real faith, had simply given up on finding a community that expressed that faith.
So, a lifetime later, we ask the question, “What if we still believed?” While we may not have known it at the time, the power of our belief was, essentially, the incarnation of the kerygmatic theology of the mid-twentieth century. We encountered the “proclaimed word”, the kerygma, and by that word, encountered Christ and his saving work both in history and in the present moment. It was an encounter that changed lives... changed us... changed so many... but where are they now?
We offer this album, Mystic Chapel, as a “love letter” of sorts. We’re sending it out to the faithful, to the “nones”, to the “dones” and to all those in between. There’s no promo, no hype, just a journey, offered in music and story. We recognize, however, that this is but our journey. Travel with us, but find a journey to make your own, for the Mystic Chapel is not a place that you can find on a map, it is an encounter that takes place in the soul. It is an encounter that may, for each of us, bring an answer to the question, “What if we still believed?”.
MICHAEL GLEN BELL Bell has been known to say, “If it isn’t creative, I’m not interested”. Born in northwest Iowa, music has always been a part of Bell’s life. The son of a professional musician and band leader, Michael first played trumpet before turning to the guitar in his early teens and playing with numerous local bands. Leaving Iowa at the age of 18, he moved to Ohio to become part of a faith community and, eventually, became the prime mover in a community of Christian musicians who played across the American Midwest and Canada. During this time, Bell shared the stage with musicians as diverse as Larry Norman, John Michael Talbot, Paul Clark and the Jessy Dixon Singers.
Returning to Iowa in his late twenties, Bell earned his undergraduate and seminary degrees while concurrently serving as a youth minister in numerous churches. For several years he was on staff in campus ministry at the University of Iowa. Involved with the visual arts as well as composition and performance, Bell settled in Indiana to work on musical projects with his long time friend, Duane Arnold.
A guitarist from the “school” of Michael Hedges and David Crosby, Bell has become known through the years as more than simply a singer/songwriter. A deep contemplative note is always present in Bell’s concert appearances, combined with a keen cultural awareness that draws from his love of theology and history.
DUANE W.H. ARNOLD Arnold has often said, “I’ve been able to live several lives in one”. Born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Arnold spent his childhood and teenage years outside of Cleveland, Ohio. In his mid-teens he left home and roamed Canada and the United States, eventually joining a Christian commune in Oregon. Returning to the mid-west at the age of 20, he embarked on a path of higher education. In all, he has earned seven degrees and diplomas, including a PhD in church history. In the course of his career, Arnold has held numerous academic positions both in the United State and abroad.
As a writer, Arnold has authored nine books and numerous articles for scholarly journals. Certain of his works in the study of church history have become standard references in their field. His volume, Prayers of the Martyrs, has been translated into nine languages.
Although he was first a pastor among evangelicals, Arnold became a priest in the Anglican Communion in 1987. As pastor and priest, he has served churches and educational institutions from the American Midwest to New York City to Northern England. Arnold’s involvement with music dates from the earliest days of Contemporary Christian Music, promoting numerous Solid Rock artists, organizing concerts in the midwest and managing solo artists and groups from within his own faith community. His friendship with Michael Glen Bell stretches over three decades. Together, they were recently received into the Roman Catholic Church.
The Project is the joint musical endeavor of Michael Glen Bell and Duane W.H. Arnold. Their first album, Martyrs Prayers, was released to great critical acclaim and utilized the gifts of guest artists such as Phil Keaggy, Jennifer Knapp, Randy Stonehill, Glenn Kaiser, The McCrary Sisters and numerous others. A single from the album, “Romero”, became the unofficial anthem for the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 2015. Their current album, Mystic Chapel, was released in December 2015. For more information go to TheMartyrsProject.com
CD available for purchase at: http://themartyrsproject.com