Historic church begins multimillion-dollar expansion

New pipe organ among the projects underway at First United Methodist Church
Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 11:49 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Montgomery’s first organized church is reflecting on its 192-year history as it prepares for the future. First United Methodist Church in Old Cloverdale has launched a series of expansion projects, including a massive new pipe organ installation.

The pipe organ project means the church’s sanctuary looks more like a construction zone. One of the nation’s oldest pipe organ builders, the California-based Schoenstein Company, is installing the instrument, including hundreds of metal and wooden pipes. Each has to be separately voiced and tuned.

“This is going to be the kind of instrument that celebrates the type of worship that we do in this beautiful neo-Gothic sanctuary,” said FUMC Minister of Music, Dr. James Seay.

The project began three years ago and will cost a total of $2.2 million. It requires the work of trained artists at almost every turn.

“It’s an art form in every way, not just visually and musically, but mechanically,” explained Schoenstein Company representative Chris Hansford.

“It’s all built to the musical requirements of the church, the acoustics of the church.”

But the pipe organ installation is just the first of three major projects underway at First Methodist. Senior Pastor Jay Cooper says the goal is to keep the historic church viable for future generations.

“The investments and the steps forward we’re taking as a church are investments for Montgomery,” Cooper said.

Those investments include work on the church’s fellowship hall, allowing it to host more community meetings and events. And the largest project will see changes to the education building so that the church can expand its children’s ministries.

FUMC members have pledged a total of $6.4 million to pay for the upgrades, which should be completed by early fall. A dedication service for the new pipe organ is scheduled for September.

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