Saturday, July 23, 2011

Not at all keen

I am not at all keen on raising funds for pipe organ repairs and restorations. The quakes here in Christchurch have caused quite a bit of pipe organ damage and some signs are emerging of, well, let's just call it quite a lot of dollars being required to repair and restore the damaged organs (with complications in some cases as to whether new church buildings are going to be 'the sort of building that will take a pipe organ'). Now my strong commitment to our freedom in Christ means that I am not going to stand in the way of anyone wishing to donate money towards organ funds, nor am I going to argue against individual parishes making choices as to whether they are going to raise funds required over and above any insurance payouts.

However I am free in Christ too, and I offer the following propositions for consideration:

(1) The virtues and comparative affordability of the latest electronic organs. Most pipe organ restoration and repairs I hear about are more expensive than a superb electronic organ. Once a restoration job is done it is only a matter of time before it needs doing AGAIN and again and again.

(2) Jesus never said anything about the necessity of pipe organs for worshipping God.

(3) It is worth asking the question whether God's kingdom is advanced by restoring and repairing pipe organs.

(4) One decent pipe organ per city is sufficient unto the day thereof. In your city it might even exist in a town hall, not a church, and be maintained by your city council. How good a deal is that!

(5) The future of Christian worship does not require pipe organs and will be managed by a range of instruments way cheaper than a pipe organ.
But the big issue here for the churches of Canterbury is pretty simple: what role do pipe organs play in 21st century mission, and what is that role worth in basic monetary terms?


Anonymous said...

Agreed!!!! a church up here in wellington recently spent an obscene amount of money on restoring one of these when they could have just kept the pipes (for visual appeal) and installed an electric console for a 10th the price and much better and more consistant sound quality. Mind you, my church is doing the same thing - looking to spend a large sum of money on a grand piano when an electric grand piano which looks the same, plays the same, never needs tuning, sounds the same, can easily be amplified through the PA AND includes a range of Piano/organ/pretty much any sounds you can imagine - for half the price. It's like some crazy form of idolatry


Tregonsee said...

I understand the instincts to preserve old classics. I have an electric mantel clock, a wedding present to my parents in 1944, which needed some significant repair to the mechanism, and a new motor. I took it to a real clock shop, and the estimate was for about $60 USD to install a chiming quartz movement which will last essentially forever. I chose to retain the old movement, which came to about $200 USD. It will probably outlast me, but will eventually need to be repaired again, if parts are still available. I have no regrets, even though it was a clear case of nostalgia trumping good judgment.

Change those numbers to $60,000 and $200,000 for an organ or something similar, and the situation should change. There are two churches nearby which have pipe organs. One is real, dating from about 1850, and the other is a fake, dating from 2004. Both sound just the same, though the real one needs frequent and costly upkeep.

ericfromnewyork said...

I sympathize with your feelings, but I still wonder about a few things.
Your arguments, if followed to their logical conclusion, would militate against spending any money at all for items of material culture offered to the glory of God. After all, why have even an electronic keyboard when a couple of $1 plastic recorder flutes would do. Or, no instrumental music at all?
Why have even a plain, unadorned room, when you can simply rent indoor space, or, in the summer, worship in the park? Why have any identifiable material witness to how important our faith, and our God, is to us? St Paul had none of these things. Should we?
I am not trying to be contentious; these are sincere questions. The answers to these questions would focus the response and scope of the reactions to such a material loss as has been experienced by the Church in New Zealand.
Your question about how many pipe organs does a city need assumes that culture is entirely secular, and the arts belong to the state (only), not the church. Is it truly a balanced, biblical pespective to simply give up the idea that the church requires (or can profitably employ) material culture?
What happened to the quaint notion that we offer our best, first, to God, and then enjoy the bounty that remains?
If you do away with all rich clothing, beautiful buildings, and expensive musical instruments, in Churches, won't these things all still exist? They will just be used to glorify men, not God.

Peter Carrell said...

My arguments are not arguments for not spending money on music in church: I am arguing for wise utilization of resources (which in Christchurch right now are under severe pressure). A 'decent electronic organ' which pumped out equivalent sound to a great parish pipe organ could cost $100000. But wouldn't this be a wiser use of funds than (as one parish is facing) spending $500000.

I cited a Town Hall organ as an example of having an organ available in a city - that would give plenty of opportunity for splendid religious worship. Including annual productions of the Messiah! But I could as easily have said something like 'let the cathedral have a great pipe organ and the rest of us cheaper but excellent alternatives.'

The difficulty with arguments involving aesthetics is that while they can run with a logic of spending nothing, they can also run with a logic of spending everything! If I think silver chalices would glorify God why stop there and not fund raise for gold chalices ... in the end, normally, Christians have made choices re buildings and furnishings which spend more than nothing and fall short of spending everything. :)

Jon said...

Agreed! My own parish has no-longer functioning pipe organ and our meager resources have only been sufficent to acquire an electronic keyboard, such as a pub band might use. Nonetheless, prayers and praise to God is offered up throughout the week and joyous voices sing hymns to God's grace. Personally, I'm of the opinion that if you can't take your worship out into a field or parking lot, you might be over-doing it.

Paul Powers said...

It depends on the situation. If your church building has been "munted" (what a marvelous expression that is!), rebuilding or repairing your pipe organ may not be the best stewardship of the parish's resources. An electric organ or piano (or even an electric keyboard) may be a better investment.

On the other hand, the pipe organ has played a hugh role in liturgical music in the Western Church over the past 4 or 5 centuries. And some of the organs that people like Bach played are still being played today. Sure they require maintenance, but so do other instruments. Will today's electronic instruments still be played in 2411? Who knows?

Fathe Ron Smith said...

"Jesus never said anything about pipe organs being necessary to worship God" - Peter Carrell -

O come, Peter! Jesus didn't say anything about homkosexuality either, but you blokes are still saying he would approve of gays in the Church.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Jesus never said anything about the necessity of pipe organs to worship God" - Peter Carrell -

O Come now Peter! Jesus didn't say anything about not including gays as ministers of His Church either, but many believe he meant to.

fuegoHugh said...

I agree; focus on the wider city, a balanced approach where finner examples of Pipe organs should be saved if they can expect to be well maintained and remain part of a Paris/Congregation's living worship... fortunately my church vestry in North Canterbury is not facing that queastion as to our one of our many congregations use our's every week(although organists are hard to source these days)

Like everyone we will want to help, where we see wise stewartship being put into practice.

Anonymous said...

Nice use of a double negative there Father Ron :) but Mark 10:6-9 appears to show the sort of life long marriage commitment that Jesus endorses and if its good enough for Jesus surely it should be good enough for those who minister in his name?