Lawrence’s Trinity Episcopal Church raising funds for new organ

Father Robert Baldwin and his parishioners at Trinity Episcopal church, 1011 Vermont, are raising money to repair and purchase organ pipes.

As far as smitings by lightning go, Trinity Episcopal Church has seen worse than the one that occurred last year.

In 1955 lightning struck the church’s bell tower and set the church on fire, burning it down.

When lightning hit the bell tower again in May of 2012, it left the church intact. It did, however, blast a hole in the wall of the tower and enter the church’s electrical system, frying the wire innards of the fire alarm, phone and elevator systems, as well as the church’s organ console.

When lightning hits twice, even a church loses faith in Providence to protect it from the elements. That’s what insurance is for, and fortunately insurance covered the church’s electrical systems and the organ console, which, at $160,000 is no small expense.

Getting the console paid for raised a dilemma for Trinity administrators. Before the lightning strike, the parish had been discussing renovating the organ and replacing the console, which had both reached their august years. The parish had decided against spending the money at the time, but the lightning strike changed their calculus.

As church rector Robert Baldwin said, “There’s no point in taking a top-of-the-line new console and hooking it up to an organ that’s 15 years past due” for renovation. So the church is trying to raise $250,000 to replace and repair the 60-year-old pipe organ’s many parts, and to also purchase a much-needed lightning protection system.

To help with fundraising, Trinity will let donors purchase pipes that correspond with specific musical notes. That way, for example, a music-minded parishioner with a deep affection for, say, C minor or someone who played a particular note in a bell choir can purchase the notes they want, Baldwin said.

“Hopefully there won’t be too much competition among the popular notes,” Baldwin said, chuckling.

Donors’ names will be associated with their chosen pipes somehow, either by a marking on the pipes themselves or through a church record. For Baldwin and the church, “all notes are equal.” Any pipe is available for $100, regardless of the size. (Although when it comes to paying the bill for the organ, larger pipes often cost more money.)

Lawrence-based Reuter Organ Co. is doing the work on the Trinity organ. Using a local company saves costs on shipping parts. It also makes talking with repairmen and checking up on the organ’s progress a lot easier.

The restored organ will contain about 2,000 pipes, an upgrade for the church that Baldwin said prides itself on its musical tradition. When it’s all done, the refurbished organ should have a richer, more expressive sound. The parish expects repairs to be finished early next year, with parts of it hopefully coming online in time for the Christmas season.

In some sense, the strike was a blessing. The church was spared and got an expensive and needed organ console out of the event. From that perspective, it was “the luckiest lightning strike ever,” Baldwin said.

All the same, he and the parish aren’t counting on luck for next time, given that the bell tower is still and likely always will be one of the tallest structures in the vicinity — not to mention made of metal. That is why they’re also raising money for a stronger lightning protection system.

“It’s not worth it to put our brand new organ in and then have it get hit by lightning again,” Baldwin said.