Short History of First Christian Church

Hagerstown, Maryland

The First Christian Church of Hagerstown began on the second Sunday in April, 1875. The first meeting was held at the call of John H. Wagoner in the Y.M.C.A. Hall on the Public Square. From this time, meetings were held regularly for "the breaking of bread and prayers", the reading of the Word, exhortation, etc.

Beginning on December 2, 1876, Campbell Jobes and S.F. Fowler conducted a series of meetings which resulted in several additions and the organization of the First Christian Church with 50 charter members. Immediately plans were begun to purchase from the Presbyterians, the church building on South Potomac Street.

Three years after its founding, the congregation began remodeling the church building, making it, "one of the neatest and most comfortable church edifices in the city". Thus began the movement in Hagerstown for the restoration of the New Testament Christianity.

Early in 1885 the matter of using an organ at the church services was brought up and by a vote of the majority of the Official Board members present, it was decided to use an organ. The first organ was a small reed instrument. However, in July of 1902, a 2-manual Moller instrument was purchased.

A building committee was appointed in 1895 to take care of enlarging the church building. On May 6, 1907 the property at 225 S. Potomac Street was purchased for a parsonage. Then on May 25, 1913, a special meeting was called to discuss the plans for a new modern Bible School building. The addition was completed and dedicated in May 1915. In 1936, a new Moller Pipe Organ was purchased and installed.

During late 1957 and early 1958, much planning and work went toward the realization of the dream of a new church building. At a special congregational meeting on October 14, 1958 the building committee was enthusiastically authorized to instruct the architect to proceed with detailed working drawings. Cornerstone laying ceremonies took place on May 1, 1960 at the church's present Potomac Avenue location. Although some delays in construction were inevitable, it was known that when the church spire was raised on October 13, 1960, the dream had become a reality.

First Christian Church seeks to hold a worthy place among the churches of Hagerstown by way of its cooperation and financial assistance, but cooperates with the denomination as a whole.

History of the Pipe Organ

The pipe organ of First Christian church has a unique history for several reasons. First, it was originally built by the M.P. Moller Company of Hagerstown for Temple Adath Israel located in Bronx, New York in 1935. Its cost in 1935 was $4,000. For some unknown reason however, the Moller Company had to take the organ back. The same organ was then re-engineered for the former church building on South Potomac Street shortly thereafter. When the current church was built here in 1960, the pipe organ was moved to its present location. The total cost for the move, in addition to tonal revisions and re-engineering, was $18,650.

In 1970, a new console was purchased with additional stop controls so that pipes could be added. This new console cost $12,470. Over the past 30 years, many additional sets of pipes have been added to the organ. All of these pipes came from other churches, making the pipe organ of First Christian Church of Hagerstown a truly ecumenical instrument. Pipes were added Trinity Lutheran Church, Camp Hill, PA; First Presbyterian Church, Summit, NJ; St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Westminster, MD; Peachtree United Methodist Church in Atlanta, GA; The Chapel at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ; and from a Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH. These replacements were done to add different or new sounds. Once installed on this organ, they were re-voiced so that they would blend appropriately with the original pipes.

Work began on the installation of the Antiphonal Organ on the rear gallery wall in August 1996 and was completed by the end of October 1996. The Trancept Great chest, two sets of pipes and casework was purchased from the Trinity Lutheran Church here in Hagerstown, MD. The Principal and Mixture ranks were purchased and made by the Eastern Organ Pipes, Inc., also of Hagerstown. An electronic 16' Gedeckt pedal was also purchased at this time. At the same time, the console was sent out to the Hagerstown Organ Company and converted to solid state. Also added at this time was an electronic 32 Bourdon.

Other additions to the organ are the Trompette en Chamade (horizontal trumpet) that lies atop the Great/Choir Division. In 1996 the transposer was installed on the console after its conversion to solid-state technology. In January of 1999, the 32' electronic Contra Fagott stop was donated and then in 2000, another generous gift permitted the installation of the 8' Flute Celeste stop and a solid state control to increase the combination memories from 8 to 32.

In 2002, all pneumatic relays were replaced with solid state circuitry. The entire organ is now controlled with solid state technology. In 2003, an electronic 16' Violone stop was installed on the pedal organ. During February of 2005, the present chimes and harp were removed from the organ. Both of these units needed to be totally rebuilt to keep them in working order. Due to the amount of work involved, it was decided to purchase a digital chime, harp and celesta unit. At present, the pipe organ of First Christian Church has a total of 38 ranks (sets) of organ pipes which add up to a total of 2,201 individual pipes. The present replacement cost of the organ is $600,000, however, with the demise of the M.P. Moller Pipe Organ Company, once the world's largest builder of pipe organs, the organ of First Christian could not truly be replaced at any cost.

Note: Mr. Leon Cross, the author of this history of the pipe organ at First Christian Church in Hagerstown, worked for the M.P. Moller Company for 42 years until his retirement. As a master organ builder and technician, he worked on many of the premier pipe organs in this country. First Christian Church wishes to acknowledge and thank Mr. Cross for his tireless efforts and contributions to our magnificent instrument. We miss him greatly every day.

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