Alabama Baptist choirs sing at Carnegie Hall in New York City

Alabama Baptist choirs sing at Carnegie Hall in New York City

By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist

The night the choirs of three Alabama churches filled the stage of Carnegie Hall on June 16, Michael Adler’s smile was big.

It was a big choir and orchestra — more than 300 people total, joined by gospel recording artist David Phelps and the Voices of Mobile from University of Mobile. It was a big opportunity for the three churches — Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia; Hunter Street Baptist Church, Hoover; and First Baptist Church, Trussville.

But something bigger was at play than simply what met the eye at their New York Worship Project.
“Our people took seriously the mission of passing out tickets to the streets of New York,” Adler, worship arts pastor at Shades Mountain Baptist, said. “When the room was that full, we know that the odds were high of there being a large number of unbelievers in that venue.”

The floor of the building was packed, with people lining the rims of every balcony, and they were alive and fully engaged the whole time, he said.

And Danny Wood, pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist, was “outstanding in his gospel presentation,” Adler said. “He instantly won the audience over with his good humor and then plunged quickly into a five-minute gospel narrative that was so on point.”

Before they left for New York, the combined choirs and orchestra held a preview concert June 13 at Shades Mountain, an event that included a tribute to Mike McLemore, executive director of missions for Birmingham Baptist Association, who died Feb. 10.

It was the last bit of preparation for a trip that’s been quite some time in the making.

SEND initiative

Adler began planning the trip two years ago as an extension of ministry work that the church had already begun there — Shades Mountain heads up the Southern Baptist Convention SEND initiative for the New York City area.

“We wanted to leverage the artistic gifts of these Birmingham- area churches while also helping to support these New York City church plants,” Adler said.

The day after the Carnegie Hall concert, the three churches divided and went to four locations in New York City to lead worship services and grill and serve free food in a city park.

Joe Estes, minister of music and worship for First Baptist, Trussville, said his choir was able to lead worship at one of their partner congregations, New City Church. While they were there, they got to be a part of some of the church’s first baptisms — three sisters were baptized in a portable baptistry that day.

“That really was a highlight,” Estes said.

But he’s quick to say the whole trip was great.

“We just thanked the Lord for the opportunity. We were excited to be a part of it. It was a great, great experience and God was so gracious.”