I don’t know why I thought this picture was funny but it is – anyway we are losing an organist, or that is what some are saying – read on.

There is probably going to be a lot of talk about the church as local congregation and the church as the body of Christ.  There needs to be some talk about this.  We hear congregations say all the time that they are “autonomous” and can pretty much do as they want.  Well it may be true under the form of governance we have chosen but it is not true when we think of the body of Christ.  We do not govern ourselves, Christ governs us in love and places us into a body that is extended around the world.  A little congregation in the wilds of North Dakot or Minnesota are responsible to and concerned about all the other congregations in the fellowship of believers.  The local church and the total Church should not separate, for they need each other. The local congregation is totally church, but not the whole Church.

I was thinking about this preparing for a special day tomorrow.  Judy Anderson who ahs played the organ at Zion for 53 years is getting married and moving away.  This is a pretty big deal.  When I came to Zion we had (if my memory is right) 5 organists.  There were five at Zion and four at Trinty.  When Judy goes to Grand Forks we have 3 between the two churches.  Times they are a changing.  Her is part of an article that was written about Judy.


A lifelong commitment.  Judy Anderson in her 53rd year as church organist

By Sue Matcha

Judy Anderson has been a member of Zion English Lutheran Church in Grafton her entire life. For much of her life, she has also served as a church organist, with a dedication to her role that has spanned 53 years.

Anderson recalls that for many years Zion English Lutheran had only one organist and that was her aunt, Vivian Miller. When Anderson was only 12 years old, Miller asked her if she would consider becoming a church organist.

“Being committed to playing the organ every Sunday was becoming difficult for Vivian and her family,” Anderson said. “Not only was Vivian my aunt, she was also my godmother, and who can say no to their godmother.”

As a child – and to this day – Anderson has always loved to play the piano, so much so that her parents often had to tell her to stop practicing. When her aunt asked her to play the organ for the church worship service, she was already playing the piano for Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.

“But playing the organ for church? Wow! I wasn’t sure I could take that on at the age of 12,” Anderson remarked. “My father thought I should not play for church until after my Rite of Confirmation, but our pastor told him that it was just fine.”

So, with the guidance of her aunt, within a few weeks Anderson attempted to learn to play the organ.

“I got so much help from my Aunt Vivian. I can still hear her laughter at some of my questions, but I wanted to do a good job,” Anderson commented. “My first Sunday went okay, we didn’t have the detailed prelude Aunt Vivian always played, but I made it through the church service.”

Since that first Sunday, Anderson has enjoyed her commitment to her church, especially playing duets – with Vivian playing the organ and Anderson the piano. For a time the church choir presented Christmas concerts and Easter Cantatas, and the two played together prior to the performance. As an adult, Anderson also directed the church choir.

Many other women in the congregation have played the organ and piano along with Anderson and they had a rotating schedule. Presently she shares her duties with Cathi Heuchert and their schedules seem to work well.

“Occasionally we will switch Sundays and on one occasion we got confused,” Anderson recollected. “That resulted in there being no organist on board! But that was quickly rectified when one of us got to the organ, although unprepared.”

With  many years of experience, Anderson will tell you that being a church organist or pianist is a true commitment and involves giving of your time. She estimates on the weeks that she plays for the morning worship, she dedicates about two or three hours to practicing and choosing prelude music. The same is true when she plays for funerals and weddings at the church.

Anderson’s organist days at Zion will soon come to an end. She is getting married in September and will move to Grand Forks, taking precious memories with her.

“One day a young child in our congregation asked me how long I had played the organ at the church. I said ‘53 years.’ he looked at me and said ‘You must be really old!’”

“I dread the Sunday I play for the last time,” she commented. “But more so, I will miss the members of Zion. They are like family to me. I know I will enjoy worshiping at my new church in Grand Forks, but Zion will always be home.”

I understand the sentiment.  Zion will always be home.  But wherever Christ is taught, there is the Gospel and there is the church.  So tomorow we have a reception for Judy at Zion from noon to 1.  We will thank her and wish her God speed and send her to be an organist at our sister church in Grand Forks.  Rather than losing an organist I hope that we can think of it as supplying a sister church with a talented musician and that the whole body of Christ can rejoice.