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.

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