Tornado-damaged New Minden church has 'something to sing about'

News-DemocratJune 30, 2014 

Slowly but surely, St. John's Lutheran Church of New Minden is building back.

The church was severely damaged by a tornado Nov. 17, which knocked down part of the church's stone walls which were built in 1863.

Some of that stone crushed the church organ, which had been dedicated in June of 1907 after a different tornado had damaged the church.

The church has signed a contract with Martin Ott Pipe Organ Co. in St. Louis to build a new pipe organ, using pieces of the old organ.

The old organ was built under the name of George Kilgen & Son and was a 12-rank mechanical action instrument.

"Martin (Ott) is determined to use three ranks of the pipes from the 1907 organ in the new organ," said the Rev. Tim Mueller, pastor of St. John's.

He said that is one of the things that attracted the church to the organ builder. That, and Ott's empathy with the congregation.

"We liked the authenticity of a tracker-action pipe organ," Mueller said. "Our house of worship is built out of natural stone. It was here before any of us were even born. We are pleased that our church will once again be filled with the same natural sounds that have been heard in churches and cathedrals for centuries."

Mueller said when Ott surveyed the damaged old organ, he said he could use some of the old parts.

"I watched him take a damaged metal pipe and press the dents out with his bare hands," Mueller said.

The organ committee visited Immanuel Lutheran Church in Waterloo, which has a Martin Ott organ and came away impressed, he said.

Ott will build a new 20-rank, mechanical-action organ for the insurance replacement price of $177,500. The congregation will provide some unskilled manual labor to help keep the price down.

"His organs are known to be well-voiced to suit the space for which they are designed. By this purchase St. John's tells the world that we have something to sing about," Mueller said.

The organ will be installed sometime between July and October of 2015.

Mueller said church members were offered the organ parts that could not be used in the new organ.

"We will see what sort of creativity will be used to display these souvenirs or to re-purpose them as part of something else," he said.

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