My wife and I drove from the Leavenworth, Kansas area where we live to a small community roughly twenty miles north of the Tennessee-Alabama state line last month. Twice a year, Christians gather from across the country in Diana, Tennessee, to sing praises to God and to enjoy fellowship, hot ham sandwiches, and fresh peach or chocolate fried pies. The event begins at 7:30 pm and ends about 2 am on Saturday morning, to resume for four more hours on Saturday evening beginning at 7 pm. They have been engaging in these singings at Diana since 1969, so this year participants are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Diana Singing. The singing is a cappella and led by individual leaders who signed up at the location earlier that evening. This year, over one hundred signed up to lead on Friday evening. My name was drawn to lead a song just after 8:30 pm. I chose to lead the song “I Love to Tell the Story.” While its lyrics are not a prayer, my prayer is that that God will continue to give me opportunities to “tell the story” of Jesus and his love. Several of the other songs selected that evening were songs of prayer. Over five thousand attended the singing, held at a two sided shed that seats 2500. It was an inspiring sight to see hundreds of singers sitting and standing outside the two open sides of the shed.
Like any event planned and conducted by human beings, the June 2019 Diana Singing had imperfections or aspects that someone might criticize. However, my wife and I saw so much evidence of the grace of God at work in people’s lives that it overwhelmed any thought of criticism for us. People from twenty-eight states attended. The youngest person present was only five days old; the oldest was a woman in her nineties. Some of the leaders were teenagers or younger; others were in their seventies, if not older. One song leader was blind and led with a strong, beautiful voice from a Braille edition of the hymnal being used. Differences over doctrine or tradition became secondary to shared faith in Christ and a desire to praise God. The Diana Singing gives hope that the prayer of Christ for unity among his followers recorded in John chapter 17 may become a reality. The singers will meet again in Diana in September. You may find out more on the event’s Facebook page here. Pray with me that God’s people will continue to praise him together in a spirit of love at this location for years to come.
O God of love, You desire unity among your people. Differences in interpretation or practice quickly attract our attention. We may argue with or even demonize those with whom we disagree. Open our eyes and our hearts that we may discern how we may hurdle the barriers that divide us. May we turn from a spirit of grumbling and complaining towards fellowship in you that will bring joy to you as you hear us pray and sing together. Thank you for opportunities like the Diana Singing where we may unite to sing together of your majesty as we anticipate that “pearly white city.” Thank you for men and women who work sacrificially to make such events possible. Bless them richly for their sacrificial service. May yours be all the glory as we tell the story of your grace and love. I pray in Jesus’s name, amen.