Stephen and Lee Preston hadn’t planned on attending the Georgia/Tennessee Country and Gospel Music Awards in Chattanooga last month.
“It was held on our anniversary,” Stephen Preston said. “But two nights before, we got word that we’d actually been nominated in several categories, and we decided we should go.”
They ended up going home with three awards. Stephen took second place in the Rising Star Vocalist of the Year-New Gospel category. Lee won Female Vocalist of the Year-Traditional Gospel. And their duo, known as Two No More, took third place in the Most Promising Vocal Duo of the Year-New Gospel category. That qualified them to compete in the national awards in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., in March.
“We are looking forward to that,” Lee said.
But before they head to Pigeon Forge, they plan to go to Nashville, Tenn., in February to audition for the NBC musical competition “The Voice.”
The two now call Cleveland, Tenn., their home. But Whitfield County residents may remember Lee as Lee Scoggins back in the 1980s.
“My dad (Greg) was recreation director for Whitfield County, and I was here from second grade through 12th grade,” she said. “I went to Southeast Whitfield High School. I was part of the marching band and played basketball.”
The two are attempting to start a “music and marriage ministry.” The name of their duo, in fact, comes from Mark 10:8 which describes how a man and woman are joined as one in marriage.
“From our very first meeting, we felt that God had something much larger in store for us,” Stephen said.
But they acknowledge the fact that both have been married before might give some people some pause.
“When you mention that in a church or a religious atmosphere, it can cause a bit of a shudder,” Stephen said. “How can you be starting something like this if you’ve had some issues at one point? To that, I say the God we serve is a God of grace. I’d also say that in our previous marriages we saw a lot of things and experienced a lot of things, and based on how we came through those experiences and were led together by God we feel that we could be a benefit to those who are struggling.”
Both say they have lengthy experience in ministry and church leadership.
“For the last 20 years, since I was 18, I’ve been singing. I’ve helped produce (church) plays. I’ve led worship in front of as many as 20,000 people,” Lee said. “We have that base to build on, and like he said this is something we’ve felt led to do since we first met.”
The two met through an online dating service in December 2012 and were married just 10 days later.
“The communication we had, through emails and phone conversations, was very easy and very open. We knew quickly that God was leading us together,” Stephen said.
The two say that such open communication is something they emphasize in their ministry.
“We have issues just like everyone else. The key to dealing with those issues is not to let them build up but to talk about them and to treat each other with respect and to trust in the Lord,” Lee said.