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Organist to present free concert on Farmers Day

CHINA GROVE — From year to year, you never know what you’ll see or hear at Farmers Day. Would you believe an organ concert?

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in downtown China Grove is opening its doors to show off its newly renovated sanctuary and brand-new Fisk Opus 143 pipe organ. The organ was formally dedicated at a concert in June, but visitors to Farmers Day will have a chance to check out the impressive instrument in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. The church is located at 326 N. Main St.

Elizabeth Staton, the church’s organist, will present three, 30-minute programs at 10 am, noon and 2 p.m.

“I’m going to play music that I play on Sunday morning,” she says. Visitors will hear music from composers such as Bach, Manz and Cherwien, along with familiar pieces such as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” At the end of each mini-concert, visitors can request favorite hymns as part of a hymn sing. Staton is also happy to answer any questions about the organ.

“It will be a cool, quiet respite on the hottest day of the year,” she adds. “This organ is for everyone. It’s for the community. It’s not a concert recital organ. It’s an organ for worship.”

And it’s a heckuva lot of fun to play, Staton adds.

Organ aficionados will want to know that the Fisk has two manuals, 21 ranks, 21 stops and 1,192 pipes. The organ is named after the late Harold and Martha Menius. The funding for the instrument, as well as the sanctuary renovation, came from a bequest from Menius’ estate. A quiet, unassuming man, Menius was a longtime member of the church choir.

The congregation is looking forward to the event, says the Rev. Keith Copeland, St. Mark’s transitional pastor. “We have asked the questions, how can we host the community? How can we form relationships? How can we reconnect with folks?”

During Farmers Day, three St. Mark’s teams will be on hand. One team will hand out flyers, inviting festival-goers to the mini-concerts. Another team will welcome guests to the church and distribute cold water, and the third team will conduct a quick survey that asks these questions: How many members did you speak to? What can this church do to make the community stronger? How can we pray for you?

“For every survey we complete, we will donate $1 to Main Street Mission,” Copeland notes. “Our congregation wants to go from doing church to being church.”

And who knows? Someone may even stump the organist during the hymn sing with an unfamiliar tune.

“That happened during the last hymn sing,” Staton quips.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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