A Joyful Noise
The holidays are traditionally filled with music, but St. Paul’s Memorial Church in South Bend faced a silent night until the recently completed restoration of its 1901 Bennett organ.
The pipe organ, one of the largest in South Bend, debuted with the church in 1901, It features 2,400 pipes ranging from 16 feet to less than half an inch.
Over the years, the bellows deteriorated, and many of the pipes stopped working, giving the magnificent full-throated instrument a bad case of musical laryngitis. The congregation rallied, raising nearly $500,000 for complete restoration. This year, the congregation and community will celebrate Christmas with a full rank of restored and reproduced pipes powered by new bellows and chambers, conducted by an organist seated at a state-of-the-art console. The church unveiled the recently re-installed organ with a public concert during South Bend’s Historic Holiday Walking Tour.
With plans for community concerts, church leaders hope the restored organ will boost St. Paul’s engagement with the community. One of the first participants in Indiana Landmarks’ Sacred Places Indiana training program, the church previously installed a new commercial kitchen that can be rented by others seeking to grow a food related operation. Holy Smokes Pizza, a small business started in the church’s kitchen, became so successful that it’s now looking for a larger space. The congregation also renovated the former fellowship hall to create rentable event space.
In many respects, the full embrace of community engagement returns the church to its roots. St. Paul’s original benefactors, the Studebaker family, explicitly mentioned community space in the founding documents of the church.
The work caught the attention of a local news crew, which visited during the holiday walking tour. Check out the story here.
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