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Local church to debut revamped organ at anniversary celebration

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 8:34 p.m. CDT
(Jessica Bourque – jbourque@shawmedia.com)
Lifelong church member Paul Roeder holds an old photo of Trinity Lutheran Church, located near Dwight in Grundy County. The church will celebrate 160 years of fellowship Sunday by unveiling the church's original pipe organ, which was recently refurbished.
(Jessica Bourque – jbourque@shawmedia.com)
Trinity Luthern Church members Elwood Hahn (left), Lois Hahn (middle) and Paul Roeder (right) were integral in having the 115-year-old pipe organ restored, volunteering several hours to help refurbish the instrument.
(Jessica Bourque – jbourque@shawmedia.com)
Barb Morphey plays the newly-refurbished pipe organ at Trinity Lutheran Church in Goodfarm Township which will celebrate its 160-year anniversary this Sunday. The pipe organ has not been played in an estimated 40 years but was refurbished especially for the event.

GOODFARM TOWNSHIP – No one knows exactly when the music stopped, but some say it’s been 40 years since anyone’s fingers danced across the keys of the Trinity Lutheran Church pipe organ.

The church, in Goodfarm Township, purchased and installed the organ 115 years ago. Dwindling congregation numbers and laborious upkeep silenced the beautiful, historic organ.

Until now.

A group of dedicated church-goers worked the last four months to refurbish the instrument. They plan to unveil their hard work Sunday during a re-dedication service.

The praise service is open to everyone – church members and non-members alike – and will coincide with the church’s 160-year anniversary. After the singing service, all attendees are invited to join the church for a catered meal.

“Anyone who loves music or organs, I think, would appreciate hearing this,” organist and lifelong church member Barb Morphey said.

The restoration was made possible through hours of volunteer work, along with countless donations and endowments from former and current church members.

About 75 percent of the organ was disassembled, cleaned and restored as part of the refurbishment process.

The organ’s keys were cleaned, sanded and sent to Wisconsin for further restoration.

For historical purposes, the original bellows and wind chest were left intact inside the organ, but a new wind chest was built and installed behind the organ.

Each of the 300 individual pipes – filled with dirt, cobwebs and even nests – were thoroughly cleaned before being re-installed.

Members tried to preserve the organ’s history by leaving original inscriptions and writings on the wooden bass pipes, which date back to 1910.

Morris church member Lois Hahn said she cleaned coal dust from the pipes, a testament to how long the instrument has remained dormant.

“I was washing coal dust out of them because that’s the last time it was played, when there were actually little coal stoves in here,” Hahn said.

The stoves were used to heat the church before congregants switched to conventional heating, church member Paul Roeder said.

Although a handful of members helped refurbish the instrument, the church also recruited Ron Hartman, who has experience restoring pipe organs.

“The interesting thing about this organ is that it has not been tonally changed,” Hartman said. “By tonally changed, I mean the pipework that came from the factory is as it was. Never been altered. And that’s very important.”

The organ was purchased in 1899 from Hinners and Albertson Organ Company of Pekin, Illinois. The congregation paid $500 for the instrument, a significant sum for a church of Trinity’s size, Roeder said.

Roeder and Morphey grew up attending Trinity church and said they fondly remember singing hymns accompanied by the loud, melodic organ.

Morphey played the organ a handful of times as a young teenager and is excited to play it again, forty-some years later.

“The founders have given [the organ] to us , without any question. We have the responsibility to give it to future generations,” Morris church member Elwood Hahn said.

Aside from debuting the revamped organ, Sunday’s celebration will also mark 160 years of service for Trinity Lutheran Church, originally founded by a group of Bavarian immigrant farmers.

The group settled near Goodfarm Township sometime in the mid-1800s and held their first fellowship in 1854, according to church records.

Like the organ, the church’s sanctuary was built in 1899. All of the church’s infrastructure is original, carefully and lovingly preserved by its members.

Morphey and four guest organists from the surrounding area will play Sunday in a service consisting almost entirely of singing hymns.

“We welcome everyone to come celebrate with us,” Roeder said.

IF YOU GOWhat: Trinity Lutheran Church pipe organ dedication and 160-year anniversaryWhere: Trinity Lutheran Church, 515 E. Stonewall Road, Goodfarm TownshipWhen: 3 p.m. Sunday

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