Gavin Hand spoke to Dave Bell of Lincoln-based rock worship band THE MOMENT
The album 'Freedom Calls: Live' by new British band The Moment has been getting a favourable reception, even in the crowded modern worship field. Writing about the Joining Of Dots-distributed CD, the Cross Rhythms reviewer referred to it as an "odd yet refreshing combination of genres and styles, featuring saxophones, rapping and acoustic guitars, meaning this album has something for everyone." The Moment are based in Lincoln and consist of Dave Bell (lead vocals/guitar), Gareth Hutchinson (guitar), Sam Skirow (bass), Matt Donald (keys), Tim Alford (drums) and Sam Palmer (trumpet). The back story behind the album is a long, harrowing but finally triumphant one involving frontman Bell's lengthy fight with serious illness.
From his Lincoln home, the 26 year old singer/songwriter spoke at length about his particular journey. "I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer at the age of 16. I was living my life at speed and, like most 16 years olds, I thought that I was invincible. Life was going great and then the chapter of my life suddenly turned; I noticed I had a problem with my right eye which later progressed. I went to the hospital for various tests and then got referred to a specialist, a leading eye consultant in the country, who then performed a biopsy on my right eye. He cut all the way along the bottom of my right eyebrow to find out what was going on there. Later, I was in the recovery room and my family was called in and I was told the news that I had possibly contracted a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
"So I went home for a week waiting for the results and went back a week later and was told some news that I thought I wouldn't be told in my lifetime, let alone at the age of 16. I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive tumour that was attacking the back of my right eye. There's actually only a three-in-a-million chance of getting it. I underwent six months of intense chemotherapy, lost all my hair. I would lie in a bed for three days in hospital while they put toxic chemotherapy through my body. I had 25 sessions of intense radiotherapy, one after another, 25 days in a row. That was up until the end of my treatment which brought me up to Christmas day in 2003."
Dave continued, "I have been going to church since I was born, my dad is actually the pastor of the church that I go to. I've always believed in God, believed in Jesus and believed that he was still in the business of healing but, obviously, my faith went to a new level when it became a bit more personal. My theology is that God has already sent your healing, it's on its way, but we need to realise how that will manifest in this life-time and, just to get my perspective right from the out-set, this was never God's intention, it was not his idea, it was not his doing. However, he was going to allow this situation to be used for his glory in some way and those were the kind of things that I held on to. I didn't receive what I would call 'the overnight miracle' where I would pray the prayer of faith and the next morning I would be completely whole. Instead, I had to go through a process, but my Christian faith and my relationship with Jesus would actually give me daily miracles rather than that 'overnight miracle'.
"So some things that are unexplainable in the natural happened along my journey. I could spend hours telling you the stories of all the miracles that happened along the way, but I suppose my faith brought me through because I had an inner peace that I wouldn't have experienced anywhere else. It's a feeling you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else in the world apart from through having a relationship with Jesus, knowing that he is alive and well and that he's still in the business of healing. It was just a constant reminder that he was there, walking me through the process, knowing that one day I would hopefully come out the other end and that it will somehow turn around and become a great story that could bring other people a story of hope."
The doctors told Dave that the radiotherapy and chemotherapy that he had to go through were likely to have serious effects on the teenager. "One of the facts I was given was that, because of the chemotherapy that's been through my body, it was highly unlikely that I would be able to have children naturally. It's a pretty difficult thing to think about when you are 16/17 years old, but a couple of years down the line I met the woman of my dreams and unfortunately I couldn't have a usual conversation with her in terms of the wedding, our honeymoon. I actually had to get the list of facts out again and I said, 'Sarah, if you choose to marry me you have to understand that we probably wouldn't be able to have children naturally'. The doctors would have advised adoption and fostering, those kind of routes. But we just believe that when God enters a situation he doesn't leave it half finished, we've relied on God so much to do the impossible and we'll never see a miracle unless we present him with the impossible, and this seemed pretty impossible to us, but it was definitely not impossible to God. But, the truth is, on the 24th August 2009, Sarah gave birth to our first miracle child Jackson; he's nearly four years old now, and then recently, literally six weeks ago, Sarah gave birth to our second miracle baby boy Levi. It's an incredible story of miracles still happening today and astounding the medical profession but giving God the glory."
Dave went on to speak about the formation of The Moment, "I knew that I wanted to start The Moment for a long time; it's been a preparation time of about 10 years now from playing in various bands. My training is in music, I studied in Music College when I came out of school. I always knew that I wanted to be in a worship band and somehow attempt, for the rest of my life, to repay for what God has done for me by playing music and worship and sharing my story. I've been in various bands over the years and never quite been in the right kind of 'thing' for what I thought God was calling me to do. I went to an event a couple of years ago, it was on [dweeb]'s last tour and I saw the phenomenal level of musicianship that they carry and I got chatting to them at the end. Their vision was very similar: they wanted to disband and go into worship, songwriting and those kinds of things, so our ideas and dreams collided really.
"The Moment was formed from there. It's an incredible group of people. From [dweeb] we've got Gareth the guitarist playing guitar for us; Matt, the bass player, now playing keyboards for us; and Tim, the frontman, who is now our drummer. The great thing about having Tim in the band is that, as a full time evangelist, he's one of the best communicators I've heard in a long time, especially at his age. So at all of our concerts, we give the opportunity and a clear presentation of the Gospel and Tim does that very well. We also now have a bass player called Sam, who came through music theatre at Coventry and is a session player, and then there is myself and a great friend of mine from my home town of Lincoln, a guy called Sam Palmer who is a full time music teacher and is an incredible trumpet player as well as a vocalist. So with the six of us together, it's a great thing."
Dave spoke about the band's name, "I suppose it wasn't anything too dramatic, but I believe that our role in this is that every single person on the planet has a moment. And that's the moment that Jesus is passing by and we believe that the band's mandate, really, is to help people to not miss their moment. Whether that be a moment of salvation, a moment of healing or just simply a moment where they encounter God in a new way and find a new way to worship. We want to be able to create these moments."
Speaking about the songs on 'Freedom Calls' Bell said, "We've got a great songwriting partnership with a guy called Chris Eaton, who's a famous and incredibly gifted songwriter and musician - we all hear his songs at Christmas time. He wrote 'Saviour's Day' which became number one for Cliff Richard and he wrote 'Breath Of Heaven' which Amy Grant and Janet Jackson have both sung. And, we wrote worship songs together, so all of the songs bar one on the new album are written by myself and Chris. We work really well together because he wants to do something a little different, more contemporary worship, and then I'm wanting to structure and create a great song. I'd go to him with ideas and concepts; the 'Freedom Calls My Name' song idea was just an idea, a concept, a hook that was just going around in my mind that we later turned into a son. Same with the song 'Healing's On Its Way': I wanted to write a great declaration about healing so we wrote that song together."
Unusually for a band's debut album, 'Freedom Calls' was recorded live. Said Bell, "We thought we could either do a studio album or a live album, and we think that one of the strong points about The Moment is the experience live, creating an atmosphere and those kinds of things that are sometimes difficult to capture on a studio album. So we put the date in the diary, 1st February this year, and we did a free entry event, but it was all ticketed so people had to go online to get a ticket. While organising something like that, you have a few sleepless nights, it's your first big concert in that kind of format that you are trying to do for The Moment. I'd wake up from having a dream where I would walk out onto the stage and there would only be my mum and dad in the audience.
"Amazingly, we had just under 900 people showing up on the night. It was incredible, they were queuing around the other side of the street just to get in. We got them all in and we just did the night live and Tim spoke and we had about 11 or 12 first time decisions, even on the recording, just to learn more about Christianity. I shared a little bit about my story and prayed for people. We also had a great charity that came with us on the night called Batell, which is for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts who meet in Christian centres, and they bought a few of their team who shared some testimonies on the evening. Overall the night was an incredible success and the recording has come out beyond our expectations and I'm really happy with it."
The Moment have already been able to take their eclectic brand of modern worship to the USA. Explained Dave, "We've got some great relationships with some churches in the States and we put a tour together called The Moment Of Truth where I share a little bit of my story during the evening and then Tim will come on the back of that and do an evangelistic talk based on The Facts and The Truth and it ties in together. Then we obviously perform, do a worship style concert. We've actually been to the States a few times now but the last one was a real significant trip. We landed in New York and then went to a big church just on the outskirts in a place called Allen Town and it's a big non-denominational contemporary style church in a big auditorium. We did their two morning services and over these services we had 70 first time genuine decisions to follow Jesus which was incredible.
"We also had some really incredible healings that took place in the meetings when we prayed for people, and it wasn't just that they had a bad cough and then it went away, it was more along the lines of things like sight problems and while we were worshipping their vision was restored. It was just great, you know, it was like things you hear about happening in other parts of the country and you are longing to see in your own life. But yeah, the tour was fantastic, we did a big conference in Pittsburgh and we became the in-house band for a renowned conference that takes place each year. We've been to Texas and Oklahoma a few times with it, so yeah, it's been real fun to do and our message and what we are trying to achieve seems to be well received culturally over there, so that's good."
Dave is clearly profoundly grateful to God for the new season that he and his bandmates have entered into. He commented, "You kind of learn something new every day I think, and depending on what season you are in life it usually gives a different side of the spectrum, or a different idea. And I suppose that becoming a dad again for the second time and the miracle that has changed me a little bit in terms of spiritually and how I see Jesus, the love I have for my child as a father and knowing that he loves me far more than I could ever love myself and all of those kinds of things has helped in that spiritual dimension, in terms of another nature and another side to who Jesus is. But, I suppose you know when we do the tours and we've been in the States, we've had some incredible moments. You know, being in a completely different culture and having people singing some of our songs and those kinds of things, it's incredible."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.