Wahroonga church concerts hit a high note for mission

Australian performer Silvie Paladino with Sing Noel musical director Benjamin Milis.

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A twice-yearly concert program presented by Wahroonga Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, NSW) has not only struck a chord with audiences, but it is having a significant missional impact on the musicians.

The Sing Praise and Sing Noel concerts are now in their eighth year. They have provided an opportunity to reach the community with high-quality music while also raising money for charities such as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the Bible Society, Operation Food For Life and Eyes for India. 

Past concerts have featured top Australian performers including Silvie Paladino and Rob McDougall, along with the Australian Girls’ Choir, a 50-piece orchestra, and popular Adventist talent such as Sandra Entermann, Marleta Fong and Jana Lombart. The Sydney Adventist Hospital and Avondale University Conservatorium are valued supporters.

While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 concert to go online, it opened the doors to a global audience, with millions watching on digital devices and on Hope Channel around the world. Last year’s Sing Noel concert was also restricted in audience numbers but was again broadcast in Australia and New Zealand on Hope Channel.

Founder and musical director Benjamin Milis says the mission impact has not only been observed externally, but also internally.

“What we’ve found really special over the years is that we’ve developed these amazing connections with non-Christian musicians who come on board and help us,” Mr Milis said.

“Even if it’s music that they’ll normally not listen to or play, every song we sing references God’s grace and fills you with hope, which is vastly different from what’s on the radio—there’s power in that. At the end of each concert we are all left with a warm, united feeling. It’s like ‘Hey we did this thing together and we raised money for charity at the same time’, and I think people hold onto that.

The concerts are now in their eighth year.

“Some of our non-Christian musicians have been playing in our orchestras for more than six years now. For some of them it’s the only time they step into a church and it’s almost become their own religious experience.

“At our last concert there was a non-Christian guy who came in at the last minute because another musician pulled out. In the rehearsals it seemed like he wasn’t really into it—he was there to do the job and that was that. 

“But then towards the end of the concert I looked over and he had tears in his eyes, and he was singing one of the songs. When the concert ended, he came up to us and said, ‘I just want you to know that this is actually my favourite type of gig to play in and I really, really loved it. Please, if you ever want me back, I’d gladly come back’.

“So for us, I think the surprise has been that this is like a mission field in itself and that keeps us going.

“God has given us this amazing gift in music. It unites people no matter what your religious background is, what race you are, how old you are. We’ve got everyone from school-aged kids up to seniors involved. It shows that multigenerational worship still exists and is important.” 

Organising the concerts is a big process requiring many months of work by a dedicated committee. There are also a lot of costs involved, with Wahroonga church able to provide the venue and subsidise some of the financial needs, but more support would be gratefully received. If you would like to donate, go to egiving.org.au/wahroonga (click on ‘show other gifts’ then select Sing Praise/Sing Noel Fundraising).

The next Sing Noel concert will be held on November 26. To find out more, search “Sing Noel” on Facebook.

The mission impact has not only been observed externally, but also internally.
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