Johnny Barber, who has been a part of the event now held at Shiloh Methodist Church in Canton, almost since its inception 14 years ago, says it has a special meaning for all those who attend.
“We get the privilege of singing gospel songs, which is about as close to heaven as you can get on this Earth,” Barber said. “Everything we do is in praise of God, and that is the main thing behind the singings. They have so much meaning. Gospel songs have a lot to say about this life and the life to come.”
Barber, who is retired from the corporate world, said he now coordinates the singings, which are presented on the third Saturday of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
In addition to praising God, the group’s mission statement says “We also hope to improve our singing skills so that we can share our faith through music. Through the friendships and experiences here, we hope to strengthen the singing in the churches of our area.”
“People just enjoyed singing and wanted to have a singing that would be just a singing service,” he said. “The idea was that the singings could improve everyone’s singing ability and polish them up. They would come from many different churches, it wouldn’t be just one church.”
The group first started getting together to sing in 1999, with the first singing held at the home of a local pastor, Bobby Morris, Barber said.
“The man who was mostly known for being behind it was the late Alvin Price, and his wife Marlene Price is still active,” Barber said.
Price said her late husband was a pastor at Shiloh and was battling cancer at the time the singings began.
“Actually, there were a few people meeting in homes, and my husband had access to the church,” Marlene Price said. “We had always sung all our lives, at one time we sang together when we first married, then sang in a quartet.”
Price said her husband would often feel unwell before he went to the singings, but when he got there, he would be meeting people and enjoying the singing.
“He would always say it was the best one yet,” she said.
Price also shares her talent twice each month when her family and others sing at Canton Nursing Home, including her son, Scott Price and his wife, Cissy. Aaron Ingram plays the piano and is the lead singer.
“It blesses us all. The nursing home, they get so much out of it, most that are able to come. We get such a blessing,” she said.
Price said the idea was also to have a community event, not just a single denomination.
For Barber, the fellowship means a lot as well.
“There are lots of reasons for the singings. I get the fellowship of people that I don’t see any other time, and some I see get often. It strengthens us,” he said.
Only a few young people participate, but he said they would like to have more.
“Mostly it is a participation thing, where everyone is singing, but sometimes we have someone, a group or family, who sings a few songs. We had a family with the most beautiful harmony you have ever heard recently,” Barber said.
Barber said another purpose of the singings is to help raise funds to preserve and improve the facilities at the historic, more than 100-year-old church.
“None of us are connected with Shiloh, but it is an old building. It is an historic place, and they have a small congregation” Barber said, “It has no restrooms - and one of the purposes of the singing - we take an offering, and it is going toward a building fund for them to build a small building for meeting room and restroom facility.”
The church is at 1614 New Light Road.
The next singing is June 21 at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page.