Saturday, September 12, 2009

Visits to Freed-Hardeman University and the Diana Singing

My wife and I took a road trip into Tennessee this past week. Our first highlight was visiting the place where we first met thirty-two years ago – Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee. The school’s appearance has changed some since then. The Milan-Sitka Building, constructed in 1897 and site of several of our favorite classes, has been leveled, as has the old Art Building where, somewhat incongruously, although some describe preaching as an art, I was a student in Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (Prep n’ Del) with Dr. Tom Holland. My “battle buddy” in that class, Samuel Jones, is now the Academic Dean. He actually was the first person who greeted us when we arrived on campus. After talking with him, we visited my wife’s college roommate, who now is secretary to the President of the University. The tennis court where my wife and I met is now the site of the campus bookstore. Despite that change, what impressed both of us is how attention to landscaping and green space has greatly improved the appearance of the campus. New dormitories and academic buildings also contribute to a more beautiful campus. We sat on a swing outside Dixon Hall, just as we did in 1977, and reminisced. Students still attend chapel each day; the beauty of their singing and the level of participation impressed us. If these students are in any way a barometer for the future of the church and the nation, we can be quite optimistic. After we left FHU, we traveled to a small church’s grounds in Diana, Tennessee. Twice each year, thousands of Christians converge on a large shed there to sing praises to God from 7:30 in the evening until early the next morning. We left at 1:30 and people were still singing. My old preaching teacher Tom Holland helped start this singing in 1969 and still is one of its masters of ceremony. In addition to singing (all a cappella and all congregational), attendees commemorated the terrible events of 11 September 2001 and honored the oldest (90 for women and 87 for men), youngest (three weeks), and one who came the farthest to sing (from Alaska; an attendee from Hawaii left before the presentation) of those present. Attendance was greater and more persevering this year than last year; several hundred remained as late as 1:00 in the morning. The website for the singing is If you love singing and the Lord, it’s a great experience.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Hope on Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day! It has always intrigued me that so many celebrate work by taking the day off. I hope to do that as well, but since I'm on call this weekend, I may very well work on Labor Day. I'm unsure whether my desire is selfish or altruistic, but I pray that families may avoid conflict, that celebrations may remain times of joy marked by moderation in consumption of drink and food, and that drivers will focus on safety rather than careen from lane to lane with a cellphone to their ear while they argue with a spouse. My "holiday" weekend began with holy behavior this weekend, giving hope (and food) to people who didn't have enough of either to feed their families. Over the past few weeks, I noticed a concern for the poor in several seemingly unrelated Bible passages: Acts chapters 2 and 4 rejoicing that there were no poor among the earliest followers of Jesus because the rich sold possessions and gave to the poor, Ezekiel including a lack of concern for the poor as a primary reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Deuteronomy's entreaties to leave grain behind in the fields for travelers and the poor, and the apostle Paul's campaigns to raise funds for the poor. The Bible records caring for the poor by practicers of religion, but also in the Old Testament especially states that nations should help their less fortunate citizens. This Labor Day, I know that some who want to work badly have no job. Others who are ill cannot afford treatment. Let's work to find a path to hope for these people.