Marcus & Marketo

Marketo Michel had a dream. Literally.

“I had a dream that I was in my church and singing and practicing with these musicians, and I opened my eyes and the church was full of people soaking in the sound and soaking in the presence of the Lord,” she said.

She was a worship pastor at the time; she didn’t play instruments very well, but she sang. That would have surprised most people she grew up with – who told her she had a terrible voice – and maybe those who knew her in her first career as an air traffic controller, including in the Air Force. But God had called her to give up that career for music, she says, and in 2015, her dream inspired her to put out a call on Craigslist for musicians “passionate about intimate worship.”

She got some weird responses. Then came one from Marcus Clingaman, who was also a worship pastor but felt like he wasn’t getting enough out of regular congregational worship.

They met up at Michel’s church, That Church Downtown, where Michel’s husband Gil is pastor. Marcus brought along his wife, Dakota. They started playing but didn’t know any of the same songs.

“We had no plan,” said Clingaman. “But the purpose was just an open place to worship.”

They started meeting one evening each week with a few musicians, then others asked if they could join in – one wanted to come paint, one brought flags and danced, others came to pray or sing or just listen.

“Maybe after a couple years of doing that, at the end of a set, we’d say to one another, ‘That song you sang, I never heard it before,’ ” Michel said. “And the other would say, ‘I just started singing it.’ ”

After that happened several times, they decided to write in earnest. Then they recorded, and they started to realize that what they were doing was unique.

The duo played together for months before they realized they were both combat veterans. Michel had joined the Air Force before 9/11, and never thought she’d see war. Clingaman joined the Army at 17 and was part of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq. Since then, both have faced mental health issues common to veterans, and it’s inspired some of their original music. They also know support for mental health comes from friends and community as much as mental health professionals. And they try to support others in that way – by being good neighbors, through church, through a partnership with Hope Ministries.

“We sing these songs because we deal with these things,” Michel said. “It keeps truth before us. We know what you’re going through.”

“The songs are just like a very brief testimony,” Clingaman added. “It does, can and will get better.”

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