Singing Churchmen mix music, missions on spring tour

The Singing Churchmen perform at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.

The 2011 spring tour of the South Carolina Baptist Singing Churchmen wasn’t just a concert road trip – it was a weeklong series of opportunities to share Christ in locations from North Carolina to the nation’s capital.

Singing Churchmen director Mark Powers receives some eager assistance from children at a Baltimore city park.

From April 26-May 3, the men’s chorus, consisting mostly of South Carolina music ministers, traveled more than 1,400 miles. While traditional church concerts are a standard in the group’s annual schedule, outreach concerts provided some of the most memorable experiences during the tour, said Mark Powers, worship and music director for the South Carolina Baptist Convention and director of the Singing Churchmen.

On the bus, the group received training in witnessing conversations using the Million Dollar Bill tract and nylon Frisbees imprinted with Scripture. In Washington, D.C., hundreds of people heard the group as they sang at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. There, the Singing Churchmen initiated witnessing conversations with listeners from across the U.S. and the world and shared tracts.

Later that evening, at the Central Union Homeless Mission in downtown Washington, the group mingled with, witnessed to, and sang for 60 homeless men. In Baltimore, two more outdoor concerts at Solo Gibbs Park in Sharp-Leadenhall and at Federal Hill on the Inner Harbor yielded many more witnessing opportunities. The group also attracted attention in the restaurants where they ate by singing the blessing, leading to witnessing conversations with bystanders and restaurant employees.

“My most memorable concert experience was seeing children who came to Solo Gibbs Park – helping me direct the music, playing the drums, and getting to hold band instruments and handbells for the first time ever,” said Powers. “We gave them Scripture Frisbees and talked to them about Christ after the concert. They were so open and enthusiastic to have us in their neighborhood.”

Steve Hendricks is unique among the Singing Churchmen, a former minister of music who now serves as pastor of Bethel Church in Sumter. Recalling the group’s concert at Warren Avenue Church, where Annie Armstrong once attended, Hendricks said, “There were so few people at the concert that our group outnumbered those in attendance, and many of us wondered out loud why God would send us to a dying or even a dead church. During that concert, our own disappointment mixed with the hurt in the congregation so strongly that we let our guard down, and the Holy Spirit made his way in.

Tom Westmoreland (foreground), 86, who founded the South Carolina Singing Churchmen 53 years ago, joins his fellow music ministers in leading worship at Warren Avenue Church, where Annie Armstrong once attended.

“I was unable to sing our last two songs because I was weeping over the state of the church today. Yet I was overjoyed that God would call a bunch of wounded and hurting musicians to help lead and encourage his church through such a difficult time in history.”

The tour concluded as the Singing Churchmen sang for a chapel service at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Seminary president Daniel Akin commended the group by saying, “You men brought glory to God today as you led us so powerfully.”

Church concerts along the way included First Church, Tarboro N.C.; First Church, Alexandria, Va.; Hocutt Church in Clayton, N.C.; plus three churches in the Baltimore area: Warren Avenue, downtown; Faith, Glen Burnie; and Middle River.

For more information t the South Carolina Baptist Singing Churchmen, visit