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Christian country’s Double Portion found fertile ground at seminary

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–With banjo strings and guitar picks, Christian country music band Double Portion has hit the Christian country music charts with a love for Christ and a desire to share that love with others.

Double Portion’s first number one song nationwide, “Angel Band,” earned the 1999 Vocal Duo Award at the Christian Country Music Association awards ceremony in November. The group, which received three other nominations, had humble beginnings at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Bruce Ray, known as Bruce Kassab in seminary, earned a master of divinity with biblical languages from the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary in 1997. He had moved to Fort Worth in 1994 to follow a call to seminary. Two weeks after arriving on seminary hill, he felt led to start a band he called The Blue Grass Theologians.

While in seminary, Ray’s band played for a number of seminary-related events, including Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill’s inaugural picnic in 1994. In the five years since, the group has played in 49 states and seven countries.

Double Portion, whose name was taken from 2 Kings 2:9, is more than a double portion. The group plays a variety of musical styles, including country, Celtic, mountain, bluegrass, gospel and western swing music.

The group’s albums include the Christian country “Texas Heart and Soul,” the Christian Celtic “Falconer’s Prayer” and the “Double Portion Gospel Review.”

The group’s most recent release is “God Created Cowboys,” a song written by Ray and arranged by his wife, Jamie Shipman. Jamie also arranged “Angel Band,” an older song that she gave “a country flavor” with a fiddle and steel guitar.

“We are using the talents God has given us to reach people for Christ,” Ray said. “We provide a musical bridge into the secular community.”

Jamie has a long list of musical accomplishments, including singing with The Shipmans, performing live for President Reagan, singing with the twice-Grammy-nominated Light Crust Doughboys and being nominated as western swing female vocalist of the year by the Academy of Western Artists.

In 1998, Bruce and Jamie were commissioned as national music outreach strategists for the North American Mission Board’s Mission Service Corps.

For more information on Double Portion, visit website www.doubleportion.com or call 1 800-723-1562.

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  • Robyn Little