WHEN Dan Gracie gave up his faith aged 17 he isolated himself from his family, friends, and the church bands he played in.
He put down his guitar and got on with a life of atheism. But as he got older he began to wonder whether he’d made the right decision.
Now back in the fold of Leigh Road Baptist Church, he writes music for the church’s youth services, aimed at re-connecting young people with God and engaging them in church life, by making it relevant.
“When I gave up my faith at 17, it was very hard,” explains Dan, 31, of London Road, Westcliff.
“My life was pretty much built around it, my friends were from church, my family were Christians, I’d played in a church band. I had to give up a lot of things and it was very difficult for my parents.
“Turning away from it was partly because I’d grown up as a Christian and by the time I was 17, it had become apparent to me I was living out my parents’ beliefs and my friends’ and the church’s.
“I found it very enjoyable for a long time, but as I got a little bit older I started to wonder whether there might be a lot more to life.”
They say God works in mysterious ways and he certainly didn’t re-connect with Dan in a traditional manner.
The musician re-discovered his faith after watching comedy film Bruce Almighty, in which Jim Carey’s character encounters God and is lent his powers, after complaining that he’s not doing his job properly – prompting immediate chaos.
It struck a chord with Dan, after Bruce asked God why he couldn’t make his existence more obvious to people on earth – through intervening more to ensure everyone lives happily.
God replied he could not do that because it was important people retained free will.
Dan says: “I’d been asking the question ‘if he was out there why wouldn’t it just be obvious?’ but then I thought ‘well would that be a real relationship or just a dictatorship?’
“All I could think to do was read the Bible. I got up early every morning for two weeks and read through the four gospels. By the end it just became real.”
Along with his faith, Dan rediscovered his love of music – something he’d grown up with, but given up along with the church.
He says: “Interestingly, the night I became a Christian I wrote a song that I still use.
“I like music, but I prefer it when it’s about something. A lot of bands just sing for themselves, but that’s not the case with Christian music.”
In 2009 Dan and two of his friends formed Christian rock band Lazarus Rose – which made it to the finals of Southend Council’s Battle of the Bands the next year.
The band eventually proved too much of a commitment for all three members, who were juggling performing with work and families.
Dan is now concentrating on his solo material – hoping to release an album later this year – and writing music for the church.
He works with a team trying out fresh ways of making the church relevant to younger members – through new music and also by encouraging them to speak during services and through the use of visual big screen presentations to illustrate the talks.
Explaining how writing religious music is a different challenge to composing for Lazarus Rose, he adds: “It’s got to be theologically sound and relevant, because if you think ‘that doesn’t apply to me’ you’ll stop singing.
“You can’t write anything new in a sense, yet there needs to be a fresh way of looking at it, new imagery.
“Hymns were written as poems in the 1800s and 1900s and put to the most contemporary music of the day, so it’s not a new idea.
“Amazing Grace was written as a poem and it was sung to many different tunes of the day, it’s just that one of them became really popular.”
You can listen to Dan’s music at: www.myspace.com/dangracie .
Article featured in Evening Echo, Wednesday Feb 16, 2011, Dan rediscovers his faith watching Bruce Almighty, P.29. Used with permission.
By: HANNAH MARSH
Photo: AL UNDERWOOD: Songs of praise – Dan Gracie is writing new music for the church
For more information please contact David Elcock on LRBC Office 01702 478698 or email David Elcock.