All-State choir ministers with voices, hands
Eric Nusbaum, Special to the Recorder
July 22, 2010

All-State choir ministers with voices, hands

All-State choir ministers with voices, hands
Eric Nusbaum, Special to the Recorder
July 22, 2010

Buckets of soapy water and

frozen candy bars are not the usual tools of a touring youth choir that more

typically ministers with their voices.

But on July 21, 68 choir

members and 11 adult leaders of the North Carolina Baptist All-State Youth

Choir literally washed the feet of street people in sweltering downtown

Raleigh, distributed hygiene kits, free shoes, new socks, bottled water and

frozen chocolate bars before their evening concert.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

With 600 pairs of donated shoes sorted on the bus, students and coordinator Phil Campbell found the right shoes for runners who were going between the bus and the foot washers during a ministry day among street people in Raleigh. See photo gallery.

In just three days choir

members memorized 13 songs, several of which they performed for grateful

loiterers at Moore Park on an afternoon that reached 98 degrees. Choir members

each brought six pairs of new or gently used shoes when they came to their

first practice July 18 at Campbell University, where they practiced and stayed

each night.

Their first concert was July

20 at Campbell’s Butler Chapel.

“We have been working hard

since we arrived,” said Phil Campbell, this year’s tour coordinator, from First

Baptist Church in Lincolnton. “All of us are very excited about our tour.”

“We have kids from the

mountains to Wilmington,” said Campbell. “That is why this group is so

fantastic to work with.”

The choir learned their

diverse 13-song program with ease. Songs include classic hymns, current hits

and even an African language song of encouragement.

“The group has a lot of

different types of singers, which makes it tougher to get them on the same page

than ‘normal’ choir, but this group has done a wonderful job,” said Clif Harris,

choir director.

Harris is associate pastor

of music at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington. Even though he has been

involved with church music for 20 years he still gets excited whenever he


BR photo by Norman Jameson

The North Carolina Baptist All State Youth Choir took time out from “hands and feet of Jesus” service to ministry through song at a popular park in downtown Raleigh, where street people and homeless pass the time in the shadow of several social service ministries. See photo gallery.

“Music is a great way to

spread God’s word, and that’s what we are trying to do on our tour,” said

Harris. “It is even more special and exciting when I get to direct the best

singers from around the state, so I am very blessed.”

“I have been doing service

projects with the choir for a few years, but this year when they told us to

bring three pairs of shoes I was prepared for anything,” said singer Charles

Parker from Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

In addition to distributing

shoes and socks, students gave out “survival kits” containing hand wipes, band

aids, toothpaste and other essential items. The group toured and learned about

the ministry of the Raleigh Rescue Mission, just across the street from the


“I love being a part of the

choir. The singing and the friendships are great, but what I love the most are

our ministry projects,” said singer Carter Benge from Snyder Memorial. “It is

just great to go out and help the less fortunate and spread God’s word.

Anything that we can do to help, we will.”

When asked earlier if the

idea of handling other’s feet bothered him, choir member Zachary Barham of

Greensboro said, “I don’t think so, but I guess I’ll see tomorrow. It is all

for God, so I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it.”

Karen Hoffman, church and

community relations director for the Raleigh Rescue Mission, oriented students

on each of two buses before they disembarked in Raleigh.

“We don’t wash people’s feet

just because they’re dirty,” she told apprehensive, but excited choir members.

“We wash them because we are the hands and feet of Jesus. Your faith compels

you to do as Jesus did.”

Under the watchful,

expectant eyes of park regulars, choir members set up distribution stations and

ate a white bread sandwich much like the lunch of most of their audience.

Once they started washing

feet the line quickly formed, men on the right, women on the left. They were

not bashful to doff their shoes and dip their toes in the soapy water.

“We’re doing what Jesus

would do,” said fourth year choir member Emily Johnson, from Woodlawn Baptist

Church in Conover. “This is putting away your own pride, realizing there are

people out there for whom this is the best thing we could do for them … they

won’t remember my face or my name, but I made a difference.”

After a concert that night

at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh, the choir was to perform on

succeeding nights in Lumberton, Durham and Wilmington.

“I think it will be hectic

and crazy with all the traveling, but I am really having fun,” said veteran

member Shelby Ludlum of Scotland Neck. “I just want to spread God’s love in any

way I can.”

“Any way I can” now includes

for North Carolina Baptist Youth Choir members washing the feet of others —

just as Jesus did.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Nussbaum is a communications

student at Campbell University. BR Editor Norman Jameson contributed to this

story from Moore Square. Follow the blog.)

Raleigh Rescue Mission from NC Baptist All-State Youth Choir on Vimeo.