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Interview: Clive Parnell (Amazing Love)

Clive Parnell is a former colleague of mine on UCCF's team for nine years. He has just recorded a new album. The album is available by download from Monday 12th August. You hear the first two tracks for free. Having listened to a free copy I really appreciate this album lyrically and musically - both in the original tracks and his versions of 10,000 Reasons and Our God.

DB: Who is Clive Parnell, what's your journey, what's your story?
CP: Good question - you would probably be better asking my wife or kids if you want the real answer. I started life in Kent but moved to Scotland in my teens and became a Christian living in the highlands at 18 after a couple of pretty or ugly rebellious years. Before coming to faith I had a lot of energy and creativity but did not have a lot of focus.

When I became a Christian I began to learn the guitar and write my own songs. I then went to study theology and worked in a church before setting up a Trust using music to reach people with the gospel. I got married to Grace and have three kids and a puppy which makes life quite full! Following on from working in a church I was in band called indigoecho for 7 years and we did a lot of touring and made 2 albums.

I then worked for UCCF which was not in the game plan.  It was the only interview I have been at where I was saying I am not sure this is for me. After much prayer and conversation I ended up saying yes and worked with them for 9 years. This gave me a chance to speak, train and play music all over the UK and the world and It was an amazing journey.

The next stage of the journey has led me to become a Pastor at Kirkliston Community Church near Edinburgh. I am involved in teaching and training people in the church and this also allows me to serve by leading worship and encouraging the arts.

DB: Tell us about the album, Amazing Love? What's influenced you musically and lyrically... 
CP: The album is about love and specifically about the love of God. My time in UCCF allowed me to receive some rich teaching. I had a number of theological blind spots and began to understand God's grace and revel in the love of God.

It was really good to be able to hear teaching from the likes of Mike Reeves who taught me so much about the trinity and the love of God. I also spent some time reading Andy Murray (not the tennis player but the puritan). He has lots to say about the love of God and it struck me just how important this area is. We often think of romantic love but to think of the love of God that is eternal and made known in Jesus is amazing.

I was also influenced by spending two years studying an MTh in Biblical interpretation. I did my 20,000 word dissertation on - Is Luke 15:11-32 about the Prodigal son? I began to look at the outrageous love of the Father and how there is so much joy, celebration and party involved in his love. His love overflows and he welcomes us into his loving feast.

Aside of the theological blurb I have described the musical influences are mostly to do with Black gospel music and a couple of soul/roots artists. I went back to listening Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Candi Staton and Ryan Adams. What struck me about black gospel music is the truth and rawness of the lyrics alongside uplifting music. It is music that remains the same in good times and bad times.

I am concerned that many worship songs are focused on creating the same sound as the latest bands like Bastille or not so latest bands like The Killers that we forget the local church. Many songs are written for 5,000 people and in too high a key. There are however some great songs out there and I have recorded three "10,000 reasons." "Our God", and "Faithful" which was written by a friend David Lyon.

DB: What are your hopes for these songs...?
CP: I have written these songs to bless the local church. I am a singer/songwriter and a worship leader and I don't see a divide here I am writing songs for the church and for anyone who will listen. I would love to see churches using these songs in worship and equally would be blessed if people played it in their car on a Monday morning.

The reality is hardly anyone has heard of me but my prayer is the songs get out there and people engage with them.

DB: Why is music something you're passionate about?
CP: Music is something that has always been there for me. My brother who is three years older than me always played music and I was introduced to the latest tunes all the time. I went to big gigs as young as 12 and it has always been in my life.

I love music because it is a beautiful gift from God and I believe it reflects his beauty.

There have been times where I have played a gig and people have been crying at the front and said afterwards they were so moved by certain songs, I was just pleased that they not crying because of my singing! Music is seen as key in the bible too - 150 Psalms, and many songwriters, David, Moses, Miriam and Mary.

I believe that being human involves our heads and hearts and I think music is great at speaking to our hearts.

DB: How does being a musician work with being a pastor? 
CP: It works out ok - for a while I struggled with becoming a pastor as I thought either it is teaching/preaching or music. Somebody once said to me why can't it be both. I have always had music and theology in the mix and I have had to come to a place that says this is who I am and look to be a good steward of these gifts.

I wrote some of the songs and led them in our Church before recording the CD and some of the songs came out of teaching so there is some joined up thinking in the mix. There are different seasons for doing music and teaching but the most important thing is that I faithfully and lovingly serve God and others.

DB: How are you able to help your church engage with music in our culture more widely?
CP: We are running an arts festival over the next couple of weeks called Connected and have artists who are critically acclaimed such as Emily Smith and Chasing Owls (fresh from Glastonbury).

We are also putting on an art exhibition and hoping to engage people in art and culture. Art leads to conversations because it is often subjective it creates opinion. We pray that there are many people who become connected in conversations.


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