New Music Inspired – and Unexpected

May 14, 2021 | Stories from the Diocese

Too often this past year, we’ve heard, “It’s not a good time to try this.” And yet, the people of St. James the Less in Ashland found the timing was just right to raise funds to install an organ they have needed for decades.

Their original pipe organ, installed in the 1960s, needed significant work. The bid for installing a new organ came in the week the churches shut down with the pandemic. At first, the vestry thought the capital campaign planned for the organ and other projects must be put on hold.

But after finding the new normal of streaming services online, two things happened. People found they thoroughly enjoyed watching the old organ being played. Most people had heard, but never seen the organ played before. Many did not realize what a specialized skill set this was. “They have heard it for decades, but the streamed video brought it to light,” said Rector Rock Higgins. “In our prerecorded services, we actually have a camera on the organist. People loved that.”

Just as the bid for the new organ was about to expire (and likely to increase substantially), the Vestry stepped out on faith. The Senior Warden and Rector made a video that premiered on their usual steaming platforms, and a letter was sent to the congregation. Within five weeks, they had raised or had pledges for all the needed funds, and actually raised 140% of the remainder of the costs. Combined with funds the church had been gathering for decades from memorial gifts, they were able to purchase the new organ. The original pipes were preserved and the new console added digital capabilities.

The congregation is excited to soon be able to see and hear it in person when services resume inside. Thankfully, it has been loud enough to hear with the doors open for their outdoor services until then.

The new organ is part of a larger capital campaign that includes repaving the parking lots and a pavilion for outdoor worship, their Bluegrass & Brunswick Stew Festival, and various outdoor events. Progress continues on these projects.

In a dark time, God shined light on a thing of beauty and people of St. James the Less responded in word and deed with a resounding, “Thanks be to God.”