Pawhuska Churchwomen hold fall meeting

Kathryn SwanJ-C Correspondent
Pawhuska Churchwomen hold fall meeting

The Pawhuska Churchwomen held their fall meeting Friday, November 7th, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Dean Campbell, a member of the prestigious Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma spoke to the group about his visit to Russia earlier this year. Campbell was one of 160 Oklahoma singers and several spouses invited to perform in Moscow and Sochi during the Winter Olympics.

Sponsored by the Oklahoma Baptist General Convention, there are 212 active Singing Churchmen who represent full-time, part-time, bi-vocational and volunteer music ministers from 99 state cities. Several years ago the Pawhuska Lynn Baptist Church hosted a group of 65 of the Churchmen.

In addition to church and convention-related concerts, the Churchmen have presented concerts in schools, prisons and concert halls throughout the U.S. and abroad, including Australia, Armenia, Israel, China, Spain, Latvia, Estonia and two trips to Russia. The Churchmen have produced several recordings during their fifty plus year history, including the most recent SCM recordings entitled “Come to Jesus” and “The Applause of Heaven.” They recorded “Live from Sidney” at the famous Australia Opera House.

“Our mission is to spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ through the vehicle of music,” said Campbell. “Our entire group will be in concert at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 13th at Olivet Baptist Church, located at 155 North 65th West Avenue in Tulsa. All Churchmen concerts are free and open to the public.”

The Russian trip consisted of seven groups that flew out of Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Dallas. Each person was responsible for his/her own expenses which is no different than when the singers travel to in-state locations.

Campbell talked about some of the misadventures that occur when traveling, such as the first flight to leave was the last to arrive in Moscow. “Our Moscow hotel was nice and had been built for athletes participating in the Olympics years ago. Because several new hotels had not completed in time for the Olympics, we ended up staying onboard docked cruise ships at Sochi and Adler. My ship was built to hold vehicles in the lower decks. That required us to climb a steep gang plank to enter the upper decks. Our cramped quarters slept three of us on pull-down bunk beds. The showers were so small that we joked that one of our very large men had to shower one leg at a time.

“Everything in Sochi was new and built especially for the Olympics which were actually held in Adler and the nearby mountains. That’s like the Tulsa fly-ins in Bartlesville. Uncompleted hotels had been draped with multi-story painted slipcovers to give them the appearance of finished buildings. Sochi is located on an ocean beach and was bright and beautiful with weather warmer than Oklahoma’s.”

The Churchmen were welcomed warmly by the Russian people. Throughout their stay, crowds gathered for their impromptu concerts. McDonald restaurants proved to be good areas for the concerts. “Although performance platforms were scattered throughout Sochi,” said Campbell, “we were told they had been built only for Russian performers. However, the day after we performed a concert attended by three KGB agents, our director received an invitation for us to perform on the Mayor’s platform in Sochi – right across from his house. We also gave a concert in a Sochi home that had been converted into a church, seized by the government for over a decade before being returned to its owners.

“We all attended at least one Olympic event in groups of about 30. My group saw the Canada/USA Women’s soccer match. TV cameras from several different countries zeroed in on us during one timeout when we began singing ‘Oklahoma’ which they all liked.”

In spite of continual overcast skies and dirty-misty snow , the Churchmen were able to view Moscow’s towering majestic architecture. Campbell discovered that the “red” in Red Square means beautiful. He was amazed at the sheer number of huge beautiful churches in Moscow that had been built as private churches by wealthy families. “We saw very few single-family homes in Moscow. Almost all residents, regardless of status, live in huge, high-rise apartment buildings.”

Campbell explained in Moscow, wealthy residents demonstrated their status by their automobiles. “We saw lots of Mercedes. The roads in Moscow were built when most Russians could not afford a vehicle. They would be on waiting list for several years. We were told that the roads were designed for less than one fifth of the vehicles now using them. I counted ten lanes in one of the main streets. Even on that street traffic was extreme. There was no way to make a left hand turn. Our bus would turn right, go until there was a place to turn around, then go back past the intersection in the desired direction.”

Upon arriving in Moscow, Campbell’s group participated in a two-hour prayer walk in Gorky Park, a 300-acre recreational facility that is one of the city’s most popular attractions. It features a 15,000 square meter ice rink that has separate zones for children, hockey, dancing and general skating. There are cafes, an open-air cinema theater, free Wi-Fi, contemporary public art projects and beach volleyball courts.

Because a Russian orphanage had close ties to a Tulsa church, Campbell’s group was invited to visit even though to do so was banned by the government. Throughout their visit, the Churchmen gave out “Engage Sochi” pins and Frisbees with the plan of salvation in Russian attached. “Trading pens is very popular in Russia, especially with the young people,” continued Campbell. “So, we traded their pens with our pens.” The Churchmen also gave away 100 hand-knitted hats and matching scarfs made with the official colors of the Oklahoma Centennial Celebration. Each sewn-in label said “Handmade for you with love from Oklahoma John 3:16.”

Campbell invited the Churchwomen to attend Lynn Baptist Church’s dedication of a Steinway grand piano Sunday, November 9th at 3 p.m. The piano is a recent gift from former Pawhuskan Diane Simpkins. Following the dedication, Bartlesville pianist/vocalist Wade Daniel will provide a piano concert.

Pawhuska Churchwomen Coordinator Carol Hayes announced the March 6th meeting will be hosted by the First United Methodist Church. The luncheon meetings are open to all women. “Realizing lunch hours limit our working sisters’ participation,” said Hayes, “we encourage them to drop in for a bite to eat and fellowship with other women of faith. There’s always an abundance of food so they don’t have to worry about bringing anything.” The primary function of Pawhuska Churchwomen is to support the Pawhuska Ministerial Alliance and its numerous outreach programs, such as Christ’s Cupboard and the Backpack Program. “In a perfect world, Pawhuska Churchwomen would be an extension of the Alliance where we would collectively tackle community needs.”