Church set to celebrate 235th anniversary

September 19, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Instead of joyful noise, some keys on the 1931 organ at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church lately have produced a little silence.

As the church celebrates its 235th anniversary, members look to end 2005 on a high note - with a refurbished organ.

"God has blessed us with this wonderful gift, and we want to maintain it," member Bonnie Wine said Wednesday during an interview at the church on South Potomac Street.


According to Barbara Reynolds, a church member working on compiling history about St. John's, a group of Lutherans formally organized the church in 1770. They attended services in a log church in the early days and began construction of a cathedral in 1795.

In 1806, members dedicated the church where services now are held.

"We're one of the mother churches here in Hagerstown, I'm guessing, going back to 1770," the Rev. Ed Heim said.

According to Heim, church members planned to celebrate with birthday cake at a picnic Sunday. They also are planning a fellowship event for November, Heim said.

Mary Ward, church organist since 1998, will play at a recital at 3 p.m. Sept. 25 as part of a campaign to raise money to refurbish the organ.

The church's third organ, the 3,616-pipe instrument was built at the factory of M.P. Moller, a church member and Hagerstown man, Ward said.

Since being replaced 35 years ago, the leather pouches that force air through the pipes when the keys are struck have started to deteriorate, Ward said.

As she played, the problem became clear - not all the pipes produce sound anymore. Other keys produce sound, but the notes go on an on, Ward said.

"Every pipe, when they make a pipe, has to be rounded and soldered and hammered individually," Ward said.

Pipes for the organ range in size from a pencil stub to 32 feet long, Ward said. The leather pouches underneath each are connected by electrical wires and electrical magnets to the keys she plays.

Moller at one time owned the world's largest organ factory, and he installed two organs at the church, Ward said. The earliest instrument, an organ installed in 1895, is no longer at the church.

Moller began building organs at the age of 21, and he constructed his first instrument in his relative's living room in Pennsylvania, Wine said.

"His wish and his hope was to have the biggest and best organ," Wine said.

According to information provided by Reynolds, the organ needs $125,000 worth of work.

Free-will offerings will be accepted at Ward's recital, Ward said.

"I think it's a tribute to the people who did work at the factory, and Mr. Moller and the Moller family and to everyone who works or organs and services organs, that the church has decided to releather the organ rather than taking another route," Ward said.

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