For a long time now we’ve been talking about evangelical churn and the strange and wacky effects of Christianity’s continuing hemorrhage of members. Here’s a new sign of that decline that I hadn’t quite thought about until now: pipe organs in need of new homes as churches all over the country close.
From Religion News Service (RNS) we get this story about a 112-year-old pipe organ that needs a new home because the United Methodist Church that housed it has had to close.
Yes indeed! If you have a place to put it and you can afford the USD$10k-30k to move it, this half-million-dollar pipe organ in Nashville is yours for free. See, the church that met there closed last year due to not having enough members. Someone bought the church and is renovating it into an event space/boutique sorta thing, but he doesn’t need a pipe organ for anything. He doesn’t just want to toss it into the trash because he views it as “an important relic of Nashville and important in and of its own right.” So he’s offering it for free to anyone who can move it.
Oh, can’t quite make it to Nashville? Then don’t worry.
There are HUNDREDS OF OTHER PIPE ORGANS in similar dire straits all over the Western world! There’s surely one right near you!
There are so many pipe organs needing homes after their churches closed, in fact, that there’s now a clearinghouse for them. Most of them are going for a song–for just the cost of moving them, for the most part. And only about 20 a year find their new forever homes. (The guy running that site is clearly doing it as a labor of love, as his blog reveals.)
Almost all of them come from churches that are closing. If they had a super-duper-fancy pipe organ, there’s a good shot at selling it elsewhere or at least relocating it to another old-school church. But the mid-level to modest pipe organs are languishing. (Bear in mind that our definition of “modest” with regard to pipe-organ standards may look very different from the definition pipe-organ aficionados themselves use.) A lot of churches don’t even play the kind of music that is suited to pipe organs, and the ones that do generally already have a modest-to-mid-level pipe organ of their own.
So where do these old pipe organs go when their churches die?
Well, one at least is hidden away in a modest, unassuming suburban Grand Rapids home. It’s a 2333-square-foot house and the 2300-pipe pipe organ takes up a third of it. (I officially feel better now about the Sims McMansion I just made.) It’s a perfectly normal-looking house on a postcard-sized lot just like any other suburban house–just inside it is this HUGE pipe organ–which the owner couldn’t actually even play.
We joke sometimes about Christian leaders being like buggy-whip manufacturers when cars became popular, but surely pipe organ makers are looking at exactly that same dilemma as Christianity’s power declines year by inexorable year.
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