New home sought for antique church organ
A new home is being sought for an antique organ from an historic Bermuda church built by enslaved worshippers.
The organ at Cobbs Hill Methodist Church dates back to around 1883. “It carries a lot of our history with it,” said church elder Earlston DeSilva.
Mr DeSilva added: “It has a beautiful sound, but we have not been able to play it for some time.”
The church in Warwick, which dates back to 1827, is Bermuda’s oldest standing Methodist building.
A group photograph on the wall showing the centennial includes the preacher Thomas Stowe Dill, who is the great-grandfather of Mr DeSilva as well as Sheila Conyers, an adherent member.
Ms Conyers said of the organ: “That’s my baby. My mother was an organ player for 50 years; it’s beautiful and powerful.
“But to have something that we can play, I would suggest something like the organ at the Peace Lutheran Church, which can convert to a piano.”
Edna Simmons, the church secretary, said: “It’s difficult for us to part with it, because it’s a treasure. But we have to go with the times.”
The church has 22 core members, but every week is joined by visitors both local and overseas, drawn by its history.
That history has influenced the neighbourhood around it: Moonlight Lane, where the church stands, takes its name from slaves building the edifice by moonlight.
The corner down the hill at Middle Road is nicknamed Amen’s Corner from the sound of singing from the church.
Ms Simmons credited the African Diaspora Heritage Trail, a charity dedicated to Bermuda’s African history, for bringing visitors and tours.
Gloria Ray, chairwoman of the trustee and management committee, said the congregation had decided on a new instrument as part of “trying to modernise”.
She added: “We don’t have anybody to play it; a lot of people can’t use the foot pedals. If it could be sold, we would gladly accept that.”
They estimate that a modern keyboard organ could cost the church up to $25,000.
Berlene Smith, the deputy chairwoman, said: “We have had people from the National Museum of Bermuda come to look at it and we are hoping they can take it.
“They will have to have a meeting of their board before any decision is made. It would be great at the museum because it would fit so well.”
The decision remains a difficult one.
Mr DeSilva said: “As we move it, we are moving out part of our history.”
The organ was built by William Henry Davis & Son of New York City. Its first home in Bermuda was believed to be Christ Presbyterian Church in Warwick.
In about 1900, it went to Grace Methodist Church in Devonshire, and was acquired by Cobbs Hill Methodist Church in 1957. It was dismantled and restored in 1988.
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