A Memorial Sunday Praise Experience

Sunday morning of Memorial Day Weekend I especially  appreciated the mini organ concert which our  church bulletin called the “postlude”.  It was a fugue by Bach, and it gave Dianne an opportunity to really exercise the organ.  I loved it, and to me it was a praise experience.    But it set me to thinking, “How is it that we are privileged to have this pipe organ and its magnificent music in our neighborhood church?”  Here is the story.

In 1941 when the church decided to build the sanctuary, Pastor Freedholm, who was at that time less than halfway through his forty year tenure at Bethlehem, felt the plan should allow space for a future pipe organ.  He wrote to the Moeller Organ Co.  and sent along a set of the new plans with the question, “Does this plan allow for the future installation of a three rank pipe organ?”  He received an immediate answer, “It does not, but it does have room for a two rank organ, which would be suitable for a sanctuary of your size.  And we have several in the Twin Cities that  you could visit if you are interested.”  We do not know whether the pastor visited those churches, or if he even discussed the idea with the building committee.

A couple weeks after groundbreaking on the new building came December 7, 1941, which was described by President Roosevelt  as “a day of infamy” and America was engulfed in World War Two.  Three years later, when the war in the Pacific was at its height,  the church received word that one of its members, Lt. P. Philip Swanson, was killed in action in New Guinea while flying his P-39 on a mercy mission.  Lt.   Swanson was an uncle of our current Phil Swanson.  

Lt. Swanson’s widow, Jeanne, felt it appropriate to give a sizeable memorial gift to the church, but also felt that, “because Phil had perfect pitch, the memorial should go toward something having to do with music.”  She designated the gift for an “Organ Fund”, and it became the initial gift in that fund. 

Another five years passed, the War was over, the church was growing, the Organ Fund was growing, and in 1949 a two rank Moeller organ was installed along with the chancel paneling, choir loft, pulpit and improvements we enjoy today.  The cost of that improvement was greater than the cost of the original building only eight years earlier.  Some months later Ann and I were privileged to be among the first to hear our wedding recessional played on the new organ.  

That organ, now two thirds of a century old, is in need of some major repairs.  The cost of those repairs is included in the proposal for church renovation now being considered for approval by the congregation.  

Dave Swanson  5/31/16

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