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Chapel Organ Committee

Chapel Organ Committee Formed

Music has the power to both reflect and shape our experience. In worship, as in other activities, music is able to express profound thoughts and emotions in ways that mere words cannot.  In particular, the music of congregational singing has played an important role in Christian worship since the earliest days of the church, bringing the community of faith together in praise, in prayerful contemplation, and in proclamation of the word. Few things embed God’s word in our memories like a beloved hymn.  

Over the past year, members of the newly formed Chapel Organ committee met semi-monthly to consider the possibilities of a new organ for Milner Chapel. After many conversations, studies, and discernment, we strongly believe that we have an opportunity to enhance and continue the tradition of Second’s Reformed worship through the purchase of a new instrument.

On January 16, 2018, with strong support from Dr. Galloway, members of Second Presbyterian Church’s session gathered in the Sanctuary and the Chapel to hear a demonstration of each organ. The purpose was to describe the different sounds they heard. Going from the Sanctuary to the Chapel provided stark contrast; the Sanctuary Organ was described as “warm, broad, and enveloping”, while the Chapel Organ was described as “nasal, tinny, and harsh.”

There are two important reasons for these differences. First, the organ in the chapel was never designed as a proper church instrument. The sounds that it contains allow it to play only a narrow spectrum of the organ repertoire well. The consequence of this ability: it does not lead congregational song in a satisfactory manner.  Second, the organ in the chapel is an instrument that was not built for the room. This instrument was built in a factory, and then transplanted to Milner Chapel. A new organ would be built for the room, with the utmost care and precision taken on-site to ensure a warm, encircling sound ideal for leading congregational song.

Because of the particular way the Chapel organ was constructed, repairs and maintenance, such as tuning, are difficult, involving substantial disassembly in order to access the organ components.  Normal tuning of the Milner Chapel organ takes substantially longer than tuning the much larger Sanctuary Organ.  Issues with this organ have only increased as it has aged.  Regular tuning of the Chapel organ has been set aside because of the continuing need for mechanical and electrical repairs. To use the analogy of a car, the Chapel organ’s transmission has been replaced multiple times, and the problems continue. It is probable that the Chapel organ will cease to function at even a minimal level in the foreseeable future.  In each report that has been requested (going back to 2008), and in every conversation with subject matter experts, the cost of repairing and refurbishing the existing instrument does not and cannot sufficiently improve the instrument to a level consistent with the church’s needs.

In an increasingly technological age, it is difficult to immediately shun the possibility of an electronic instrument. The maintenance costs are negligible and the instrument is always in tune. But electronic instruments will always lack one vital thing: breath. The most suitable instrument for congregational singing has been and always will be a pipe organ. Humans are living, breathing beings. An instrument that reflects this literal and figurative breath will always produce better results for any congregation.

The purchase of a new instrument ranges in price from $650,000-$750,000, in addition to the spatial modifications to accommodate a new instrument. Though that price tag seems high, consider this: we recently celebrated 178 years as a church, because our founders and generations of congregants had the commitment and passion to continue a legacy of faithfulness in our primary mission: the worship of God. Consider this as well: a new organ will outlive not only everyone reading this article, but will outlive everyone who sits in Milner Chapel 100 years from now.

The Chapel Organ Committee values your questions, concerns, and feedback. We will continue careful planning and research in consultation with the appropriate channels, in particular the Stewardship and Facilities departments.  The easiest way to reach members is through our joint e-mail account:

Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord!

The Chapel Organ Committee

  • Stewart Goodwin, Chair
  • Ken Baker
  • Carolyn Dederer
  • Brent Eckhardt
  • Nancy Frick
  • Mark Huesing
  • Chris Melton
  • Sally McGuffey


  • John Allegar, Organist and Assistant Director of Music and Fine Arts
  • Catherine Carvey, Director of Facilities Management & Security 
  • Michelle Louer, Director of Music and Fine Arts 

Chapel Organ Update

Music is an integral part of the worship of God. The Chapel Organ Committee unanimously agreed at our first meeting that the primary mission of the new instrument is to facilitate the best possible worship and singing experience. We have received many comments and questions concerning the project, and are very excited about the interest. The committee hosted another potential builder – Richards, Fowkes, & Co. – with an on-site interview/discussion in early April.  This company is based just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee. An engineering report detailing possible structural modifications to Milner Chapel is in progress. 

Building an organ for Milner Chapel is a complex project and it is important for us to respond to all questions and comments. (Please send all e-mail inquiries to
We ask for your continued support and prayers, and look forward to continued progress.

The Chapel Organ Committee
Stewart Goodwin, chair