Snellville Church of Christ
Sunday, March 18, 2018
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About the Christian Singing School

The Christian Singing School was a ministry of the Cox Boulevard Church of Christ in Sheffield, Alabama to teach and promote the grace of spiritual singing to Russian speaking Christians.
The school was supported financially by individual Christians and congregations of the church of Christ mostly in the Southeastern United States.
Much exciting and far-reaching work has been done since the first school in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1993.  Russian Christians now do the music teaching in the schools and more and more original Christian songs are being written in the Russian language.
Scriptural, acapella, congregational singing was being developed and improved through this ministry.


  • Train Christian leaders who can go to their home congreations and improve worship in song.
  • Train song leaders.
  • Teach sight singing.
  • Train Christians to sing harmony parts.
  • Encourage the writing of original Russian Christian songs.
  • Record songs for distribution to Russian speaking congregations.


1989 to 1995
In 1989 the Iron Curtain fell and Christian Missionaries streamed into the Soviet Union with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Many believed the Gospel and congregations of the Lord’s Church were established in cities far and wide in Russia, Ukraine, Ballarus, Armenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and the other states of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
In 1992, Clifford Yelldell, an Elder from the Hunter Station church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama who made many trips into Russia and had established some of these congregations himself and recruited many others to venture into former Communist lands realized that these new Christians knew very few Christian songs. 
Brother Yelldell organized a team of music teachers led by Chuck and Celia Richardson of Texarkana, Texas; Cathy May of Soddy Daisy, Tennessee; Wiley Dean of Haleyville, Alabama and Keith Dannelly of Freed Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee.  In 1993 this team traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia and taught a two week school of Christian music education.  The goals of this school were: 1. To train Christians to read music.  2. To train song directors.  3. To teach and encourage the writing of original Christian songs in the Russian language.  4. To teach children’s songs for Bible School classes.  And 5. To record as many songs as possible in the Russian language and reproduce tapes for distribution to Russian speaking congregations.
Two significant things happened at that first Russian Christian Singing School.  A wonderfully talented young man named Alex Kovalenko from Kiev, Ukraine became the interpreter for Wiley Dean in his classes.  The other is that Alex met a young lady and fell in love.  The beautiful young lady who won his heart was Tatiana from Barnaul in Russia. 
1995 to 2003 
Two years later in 1995, Wiley decided to return to the Russian speaking world to go to Kiev and work with Alex to develop him to be able to teach singing schools in his country.  The plan was to conduct a one week school in Kiev and then continue to Donetsk, Ukraine for a second week.  After the trip was scheduled, Alex and Tatiana who were married by this time had to move to Barnaul to be near her family during her pregnancy.  In Barnaul, Alex and Tatiana had two children of their own and adopted two more.  Alex went to the Bible School in Barnaul and became a preacher of the Gospel and is now preaching in Voronesh, Russia.
Wiley, however, with the invaluable help of Fred Selby, led a team consisting of Andy and Vivian Randall of White Plains, New York, Jerry Bryan of Duncanville, Texas, Pat Miller and Judy Johnson of Murray, Kentucky, and John Gordon and his son, John of Fayette, Alabama.  The schools were successful and the next year even though Wiley was not able to return, Jerry Bryan led the team back to Donetsk.
In 1997, Dr. Bill Wharton of Gainesville, Florida assumed the duties of the administration of the school while Gary McLachlan organized and led the teaching team.  The school continued to be a one week school in Donetsk until 2002 when two changes took place.  The first was to move the Ukraine school to Kiev, the capital and the second was to add a week of instruction in Moscow.  
2003 to 2004 
In 2003, another transition began as Wiley Dean returned to the school as co-director with Gary McLachlan and Bill Wharton remained as the administrator.  In 2004 Gary, being heavily committed to his Russian Missions work of sending medical supplies to Russian and Ukrainian cities was not able to participate in the school.  Dr. Wharton also being heavily committed to his Bible Camp work in Dzerzinsk was not able to be at the school and Wiley became the director and administrator and presently continues in that capacity.
As the school grew from year to year, a transition has been taking place from Americans teaching through interpreters to Russian and Ukrainian teachers.  A great deal of the credit for this goes to Gary McLachlan who recruited Larissa Potippka from Dzerzinsk, Ukraine, Tonya Kovalenko from Barnaul, Sasha Bekrenova and Diana Kuchmanova from Syktyvkar.  The transition became virtually complete in 2004 when all of the music classes were taught in the Russian language.  Other Russian speaking teachers who were added in 2004 were Lena from Donetsk, and Luka and Sergei from Barnaul.

Christian Chronicle article:
Singing school celebrates 10 years of making music in Russia
By Erik Tryggestad
The words may be in Russian, but the tune is unmistakably “Blessed Assurance,” sung in the four-part harmony that has come to distinguish churches of Christ.
After communism ended, new, Russian-speaking Christians wanted to make the same sounds they heard from churches in the United States. Clifford Yeldell, then of Montgomery, Ala., formed a committee of Christian music educators to establish a training program in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1993. Intended as a one-time course, the program has grown to include hundreds of students.
In late June and early July, week-long classes in Moscow and Kiev, Ukraine, marked the 10th anniversary of the Christian Singing School and Spiritual Enrichment Program. In addition to music instruction, the program includes Bible studies and fellowship time.
“The participants’ history in singing within the congregations is usually limited to a melody-only method of hymnology,” said Gary McLachlan, co-director and music director for the sessions. “Each session includes training (in) basic music, worship, four-part harmony, voice training and congregational teaching methods.” 
McLachlan, of Canton, Ga., said that the 2003 training team included co-director Wiley Dean, song leader from Haleyville, Ala. Instructors included Cathy May, Hixson, Tenn., a teacher of music in the Hamilton County (Chattanooga) schools; Clint Sterry, Desoto, Texas; and Pat Miller, Murray, Ky. Missionary Bill Wharton, who lives in Gainesville, Fla., coordinated the programs through his sponsoring congregation, the Meridian Woods church, Tallahassee, Fla. 
The cost per student — lodging, food and supplies — is at least $100, McLachlan said. The program has a scholarship budget based on the number of anticipated students — this year about $17,500. Scholarships are limited to two per congregation. Additional attendees from a single congregation must pay their own costs. Teachers often chip in to help needy students attend, McLachlan said.
Teachers also tire before the students, who sing long into the night, Wharton said. Russian congregations select candidates for the programs, so participants feel “a responsibility to learn as much as they can so they can go back home and share their new knowledge,” he said. 
McLachlan added, “It has been amazing to watch them realize that they can learn to sing in harmony, and that the printed songs do make musical sense as they learn about ‘reading’ the music language.”
The missionaries have received many letters of thanks for the training. Masha Teterina, of Perm, Russia, wrote that the sessions provided a “wonderful time of training singing skills.”
“But most importantly, I realized the importance of singing as a congregation as we praise God’s name,” Teterina wrote.
Although many of the church songs originated in the United States, McLachlan stressed that the goal of the program is not to “(replace) the cultural aspects of the citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus,” he said. “This is definitely not the intention of any genuine Christian organization or people.”