South Carolina Singing Churchmen share music, engage Londoners with gospel

In March, the South Carolina Baptist Singing Churchmen partnered with the International Mission Board to present a mission tour to London and surrounding areas.

The Dixieland band performs in Horsham's town square.

The Dixieland band performs in Horsham’s town square.

Representing churches from across the Palmetto State were 25 members of the Singing Churchmen and four spouses. The group was under the direction of Mark Powers, worship and music director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. In addition to the men’s chorus, for which the group is best known, the Churchmen also presented a seven-piece Dixieland band, a four-in-hand handbell ensemble, a gospel quartet and a barbershop quartet.

Powers said the strategy for sharing the gospel was to draw a crowd in a public place with two or three songs, then immediately disperse to meet the people. “The inevitable question from audience members was, ‘What are you doing in London?’ ” Powers said. “Each group member was instructed to respond, ‘We are telling everyone how much God loves them and wants a relationship with them through Jesus Christ. Are you a follower of Jesus?’ ”

Powers said the approach led to more than 50 spiritual conversations during the week as group members engaged Londoners. One day, the group walked from Covent Garden to Piccadilly Square, stopping to sing five times along the way, even causing a traffic jam on one street corner. “The pattern for presenting the gospel was set that day and continued throughout the eight-day trip,” Powers said.

Lamar McCarrell, instrumental ensemble director for the Churchmen, said the “non-threatening nature of our witness seemed to melt away any coldness” in Londoners’ hearts, where only 3 percent of people regularly  attend church.

McCarrell said a “heartening reaction” came from the group’s tour guide, who complimented the visitors from South Carolina and described them as “different” from other tour groups he has led.

“Your driver and I agree that you have touched our hearts,” the tour guide told McCarrell.

Margaret Williams, organizer for the concert at Carey Baptist Church, said the concert there “was a wonderful testimony to the joy that faith in Jesus brings.”

“I think you will only know a small part of the impact you make and the consequences for the Kingdom,” she said.

The Singing Churchmen presented formal concerts at John Newton’s church in Olney, where Newton wrote “Amazing Grace,” William Carey’s church in Moulton, Brighton Road Baptist in Horsham, Christ Church in Turnham Green, St. Alban’s in Chiswick, Salvation Army International Headquarters, Homesdale Baptist Retirement Center, Holy Trinity School in Crawley, and Red Hill Baptist Church. In addition, the group sang at 22 other informal locations, including London’s street corners, parks, historical sites and markets.

Randy Kirby, minister of music at Simpsonville First Baptist Church, has a spiritual conversation on a sidewalk in Horsham.

Randy Kirby, minister of music at Simpsonville First Baptist Church, has a spiritual conversation with a couple on a sidewalk in Horsham.