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Bro. Dinas (Photo Courtesy / Thompson Photography)
 
By GALEN HOLLEY
Staff Writer


   Brother Johnny Dinas began, as always, with a prayer.
   Dinas lifted his thin arms skyward, as if reaching for an invisible hand that came down for his. He closed his eyes. His voice was soft and smooth.
   “Father,” Dinas said, as if whispering to an old friend. “You said that wherever two or three are gathered in your name, you are present. I pray for these men, your servants, who have come to me today. I give you thanks for them in the name of Jesus Christ.”
   Even on a warm, spring day, Dinas, 92, wore a sweater inside the house. His clothing was modest and neat, his cottony white hair combed in a part. He sat in his favorite chair, his eyes glowing with a gentle light that seemed to come from some holy fire inside him.
   He’d been fasting today, Dinas said, in anticipation of the visit. Food might make him sated and unfocused, and it pleased the Lord for him to be sharp and alert.  
   It would be fine, Dinas said, if his friends, like Moe Hubbard, insisted on honoring him with a concert, but the old preacher was clear about how it should be conducted.
   “We’re going there to worship God, not to praise Johnny Dinas,” he said. “We will sing songs to the glory of God. It must not be any other way.”
   The Unity Singers will perform at 3 p.m. on April 28 at First Presbyterian Church, Hubbard said. Dinas nodded.
   “We have singers and musicians from at least nine different churches,” said Hubbard. “People from all over the community will come.” Dinas nodded again.  
   It was fitting that Christians should come together across denominations to honor Dinas, said Hubbard. Over the years there was hardly a pulpit in town from which the old preacher hadn’t delivered a sermon.
   Dinas closed his eyes and smiled. He seemed to be turning over gently in his mind the yellowed pages of an ancient book.
   “Oh, the wonderful confessions of faith,” said Dinas. He raised his fists to eye-level and shook them in near ecstasy. “The confessions of faith, how they poured in. And the baptisms, the baptisms, the baptisms. ” Dinas spoke of his time shepherding a congregation in Pontotoc County in the 1960s. “We were on fire for the Lord,” he said.
   During 36 years of ministry, Dinas led United Methodist congregations in Fulton, Tchula, Columbus, Greenville, West Point, Cleveland, Kosciusko and Tupelo.
   Only weeks before they were to move to Grenada to retire, his bride of 36 years, Orena, went home to the Lord.
   “I feel that I’m still wedded to my wife,” said Dinas. “Grenada was her home, and this is where we wanted to be.”
   In a back room, Dinas’ caretaker said, the old preacher had spiral notebooks filled with prayer requests that he’d taken from folks he visited in Grenada Lake Medical Center. Around his favorite chair were devotionals, all manner of spiritual books and prayer cards.
   “The concert will nice,” said Hubbard. “Nobody deserves a tribute more than you, Brother Dinas.”
   The old preacher shook his head and smiled. “It scares me to death,” he said, laughing. Then Dinas stood, lifted his hands, skyward, and started, once again, to pray.


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