The sweet sounds of classical and contemporary gospel were played on the new Allen organ during the organ dedication at historic Salem Baptist Church in Jenkintown Sunday.
The pews filled up quickly as people came from all over to attend the dedication service.
“It consisted of magnificent congregational singing, the Negro National Anthem and many of the songs that you hear periodically in church,” said Salem pastor, The Rev. Marshall Mitchell.
The organ is traditionally an instrument of worship used in Christian services to praise and uplift the name of the Lord. As such, it has both a literal and symbolic importance to worshippers.
“This is a historic time, this is the type of organ that will last many years beyond my pastorship and perhaps many years beyond my life,” said Marshall.
“This is a wonderful way to dedicate the organ to God and to enjoy some fantastic classical music and to cling to the historic tradition of the Black church.”
During the dedication, guests were treated to a recital by Aram Basmadjian, an organist who has achieved international acclaim as an organ virtuoso.
According to information released by Salem, Basmadjian maintains a rigorous concert schedule touring 50 cities throughout the country each year.
“This is really a statement about the tradition and the importance of our music,” said Mitchell.
“We don’t take it lightly, this is not like installing plumbing; this is dedicating the organ that is going to be the center piece of our music worship, and so we want to do it the right way and we want to honor God,” he said.
Mitchell said such a grand expression of gratitude and appreciation to God for his goodness to Salem was in order.
“We want to thank God for being able to do this, This church has gone through a lot, and so one of the great ways to honor what the Lord has brought us through is to sing spiritual songs and hymns on an organ fitting this historic church.”
Leon Burrows is Salem’s minister of music and will have the task of playing the organ each Sunday in worship to God.
“This church has been working to put an instrument in for about 25 years, and it is more magnificent than any of us have ever expected,” said Burrows.
Burrows credited the members of the church for their faithful efforts to see that this moment was realized.
“I’m immensely excited, but I’m more excited for the church. It’s a celebration for them of victory; they have stayed the course, and we are just celebrating it being accomplished,” he said.
The organ is a three manual Allen digital organ custom designed to fit the church and have custom designed audio.
“It’s a magnificent instrument, and it can do everything from Bach and classical to gospel,” he said.
Dorothy Sumner Rush has been a member of Salem for 30 years and sat on the first committee established to acquire an organ for the church some 25 years ago.
“We had investigated buying a new organ but that didn’t come into fruition so now we have here, 25 years later, a brand new Allen organ which is absolutely wonderful,” said Rush.
Rush led the call to worship service during the dedication service and said that it wasn’t without challenge that this day arrived.
“We are just beaming all over, because it’s a beautiful day to see that this organ is now with us,” she said.