Baylor Religious Hour Choir Experiences Life Down Under
by Julie Carlson, (254) 710-6681
It might have been the beginning of summer in Texas, but a number of Baylor students experienced winter during a recent mission trip. The Baylor Religious Hour Choir spent nine days in the Land Down Under, performing and providing service to the Sydney community.
Forty-one Baylor folks traveled to Australia in mid-May, flying out to Los Angeles and then making the arduous 14-hour flight to Sydney. Once there, they set a frantic pace, said Maxey Parrish, faculty sponsor for the choir.
"We worked with a local church and some of its sister churches," Parrish said. "It was a small, suburban church that has been in existence a couple of years, but is starting to grow and trying to expand its outreach."
The students sang in the local churches and also worked in a coffee shop that the host church runs as an outreach ministry. They performed public concerts, often several in one day.
"An interesting thing is that the public schools allow for an hour of religious education per week," Parrish said. "This is unusual by U.S. standards, and the religious education can be any religion. So we were allowed to perform in the schools. And the school kids really looked at us like a novelty, because while the Australians aren't hostile to religion like you would encounter in Western Europe, the Christian church is not a dominant force in the lives. But they were very warm and receptive. We were treated very well."
Allison Deily of Houston, who graduated from Baylor right before leaving on the trip, had been a member of the choir since her freshman year and had taken two previous mission trips - one to Alberta, Canada, and one to New York City.
"I have traveled extensively in Europe, but I found Sydney to be a unique cross between British and Asian cultures. It was really interesting," she said.
Deily found working with the Australian churches a particularly rewarding experience. "The pastors were so encouraged by our presence there. Most churches in Sydney have congregations of about 30 to 100 people, so our choir was as big as the church we were helping."
Both Parrish and Deily did point out that the Baylor group interspersed their service with playtime, visiting a zoo, the aquarium, a stunningly beautiful beach and even watching the State of Origin rugby match (equivalent of an All Star game) in the Olympic Stadium.
"We had a tour of the Sydney Opera House, which was incredible, and we got to go to a Wildlife Park. I got to pet a wallaby, wombat, kangaroo and koala," Deily said.
The travelers also enjoyed the little things that can be experienced by being south of the Equator.
"It got cold at night but one thing that struck me was the cold wind was out of the South," Parrish said.
Deily also noticed something that many take for granted - the night sky. "The sky looks so alien with the completely different constellations. I saw stars I had never seen before," she said.
The BRH Choir has been a Baylor organization since 1948 and serves primarily as a ministry to Baylor's campus and churches in Texas. The choir also travels throughout the nation and the world for the annual mission trips. Previous years' mission trips have included destinations such as Taiwan, Mexico and France.