By Jane Agan
ABBEVILLE—As one church in South Carolina hurries to finish its organ restoration, another is just beginning.
Main Street United Methodist Church began an organ campaign Aug. 26. Called “Keep the Music Flowing: A Campaign to Replace and Restore the Organ,” this campaign is eight weeks of spiritual renewal as well as funding a new organ.
The goal of the campaign is two-fold: That every family prayerfully seeks God’s will for them and their part in the church’s mission and ministry so that they may experience anew God’s love; and that the church raise as much money over and above giving as possible to minimize long-term debt and enable the church to continue to meet its operational and missional needs.
The goal is to raise enough money to pay for the organ project, but just as important is that individuals, families and the church as a whole pray together and grow spiritually. The goal is not only fundraising, but also faith-raising.
Main Street has existed in Abbeville since 1826. In 1840, a second church was built in the location of the present church. According to some reports, after the Civil War, Main Street was one of the largest Methodist churches in the Upstate. A third church building was dedicated in 1888. This third church has undergone two major renovations (in 1894 and 1925). The second church was remembered as a place where “heavenly smiles and tuneful voices told of the peace within.”
Then and now, music is an important element of worship at Main Street. The first record of an organ and organist was in 1888 at the dedication of the third church, which also had a choir leader and 13 choir members.
The case and the beautiful façade pipes that are visible in the choir loft today were made by the Felgemaker Pipe Organ Company of Erie, Pennsylvania, and were installed in 1900. In 1973, the Felgemaker organ was replaced with a Moller organ with 586 pipes. Even though the Moller is only 45 years old, it was made of inferior metals and has deteriorated to the point that replacement is the only option. On occasion the keys will stick and play by themselves. The pipes are sagging into the floor. The organ tuner said no more duct tape or soldering can be used on the organ. The organ cannot be repaired.
In 2017, administrative council appointed an Organ Committee to research what would be our best option for replacement. The committee did an enormous amount of research before presenting their proposal to purchase a pipe organ built by Kegg Pipe Organ Builders out of Ohio.
The organ committee report said, “We sought bids from three different highly recommended organ builders: All three visited our church, assessed our current organ and discussed our needs for an instrument. They all re-stated we are currently on ‘borrowed time’ with our current organ and it is beyond repair. In short, the main problem is inferior metals used at the time and poor workmanship. Ironically, the healthiest pipes are the oldest pipes from the original 1900 organ, but these pipes are not currently ‘speaking.’”
All three builders provided them with proposals to replace the current organ. They drove to Winnsboro to tour, play and listen to two Kegg organs. The proposed Kegg Pipe Organ Builders organ, priced at $283,000, should last for 100 or more years. This organ will have 646 pipes made to the highest standards, retaining the case and façade of the present organ.
“Many of the façade pipes will be made to speak again and will be conserved according to the guidelines of the Organ Historical Society,” their report said. “The dynamic range of the organ will be impressive for an instrument of this size offering an exceptional variety of tone and volume. Additionally, we consulted with local and national experts about the positives and negatives for each kind of organ. Kegg Pipe Organ is known for making instruments that feel and seem larger than expected. It will serve all the liturgical needs of our congregation for many generations to come. This organ will be the first one our church has had that will be built to meet the specific needs and size of our sanctuary.”
Once approval from Administrative Council was secured, the campaign began (in June).
The Rev. Jim Arant, congregational specialist, served as a consultant to the campaign. Under his guidance, a campaign steering committee chairperson was selected and committees formed. It was decided that an eight-week campaign would end Oct. 14 with a special Commitment Sunday worship service. The service will be followed by a catered meal planned by the hospitality committee at which time the total fundraising amount will be announced.
Faith Promise cards will be distributed asking for a faith promise over three years.
Over the next two months the communications committee created a logo and the slogan, Keep the Music Flowing. They designed a 15-page booklet explaining the campaign, the history of the organ, organ specifications with pictures, goals and timelines. These booklets were distributed by the commitment committee at the kickoff.
Since this campaign is also about spiritual renewal, the prayer support committee selected Psalm 96:9 as the Scripture of the campaign. A special prayer time with a prayer guide is available each Sunday morning of the campaign.
“Of all the missions which MSUMC is involved, the worship of God is the reason we exist,” the Rev. Brian Arant, pastor of Main Street, and Bill McNeil, chairperson of the campaign, wrote in a joint letter to the congregation. “For nearly 200 years, we have lived out this God-centered reality. And since the late 1880s (almost 130 years!), a beautiful pipe organ formed the centerpiece of our congregational worship. How many souls were and are affected by the holy music flowing from thousands of worship services? Baptisms, weddings, funerals, cantatas, church holy days, annual conferences, countless hours of ‘equipping the saints for ministry,’ along with many other celebrations—all enhanced by our pipe organ.”
Agan is Communications Committee Chair.