A light in the darkness

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2020

By Alexis Williamson


Main Street United Methodist Church organist Christine “Chris” Ward decided to shed some light and music on Easter Sunday.

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For more than a month, the congregation at Main Street has steered clear of group worship because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite not being able to have church physically, many churches have decided to have church virtually, including Main Street United Methodist Church.

“God blessed our efforts, and these livestream services have been very well received by members of our own congregation as well as many others who have chosen to tune in,” Ward said.

Some were hopeful that they would be able to have worship on Easter Sunday. But as time went by, the news came that Virginia would likely be experiencing the peak of the virus in mid-April. Since Ward knew that the church couldn’t be together on Easter, she decided to do a recording on the organ.

“It is a beautiful instrument, and our congregation absolutely loves it,” she said. “So, this recording would be a way to bring something normal and familiar to a very unsettling time in our lives.”

With the recording plan in motion, the question was which hymns to include.

Ward already had two hymns in mind, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” and “Thine Be the Glory.” The former is typically played on Easter Sunday, while the latter is a favorite of Ward’s.

Ward said she has learned that God will somehow send confirmation if she is on the right path. She got a phone call from their pastor, the Rev. Richard L. Meiser Jr. He said he received a call from one of the church members who requested that “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” be played on the organ for Easter Sunday. She also received a message from one of the choir members who said she would miss hearing “Thine Be the Glory” being played on that Easter Sunday. That was all the confirmation Ward needed.

On Maundy Thursday, Ward spent about two hours experimenting with possible organ registrations and practicing the music.

“Each and every line of the hymn “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” ends with the word “Alleluia,” so the marriage of these two great hymns of the Christian faith became ‘Thine Be the Glory! Alleluia!’” she said.

To her amazement, the recording was a success in the first attempt. Karen Waddell, the church’s audio-visual tech, helped Ward put together a recording with photographs of the church, including its stained-glass windows. The video is about four and a half minutes long.

Ward said she wanted to give the people of the congregation a sense of something familiar and precious at this time. As a result, the church has received many calls, emails, text messages and handwritten letters from its members in appreciation of the video, which has received at least 1,600 views.

“They are all missing the freedom to come to church and worship together, to see the sanctuary adorned with Easter lilies and hearing our magnificent organ play the hymns they love so much,” Ward said. “My greatest hope is that this video will bring holy joy to each person who watches and listens. There is so much turmoil in our lives at the moment. Joy is desperately needed to feed our spirits. If this video brings even momentary joy to those who watch it, then our mission has been accomplished,” Ward said.

To watch the video, go to Facebook, Main Street United Methodist Church, and scroll down to the video posted on April 12, “Easter Scenes and Sounds from Main Street UMC.”