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Sweet sounds from saved organ fill new sanctuary home

Posted: March 6 2019 at 04:44 PM
Author: Anne Marie Gerhardt

From left to right: Kingswood Senior Pastor Rev. James Preston, Kingswood Youth Minister Clayton Edwards, and First UMC Glen Ellyn Senior Pastor Rev. Daniel Diss bless the new organ gifted from Saint Thomas UMC in Glen Ellyn which closed its doors in 2018.

Beautiful, booming new sounds are piping through the sanctuary at Kingswood United Methodist Church in Buffalo Grove, Ill., thanks to a special organ that needed a home. In April 2018, Saint Thomas United Methodist Church in Glen Ellyn closed its doors after more than 50 years in ministry.

Through connections, their Rogers organ, which brought so much joy to the Saint Thomas congregation over the years, was donated to Kingswood. It was dedicated and blessed on January 27 at a service and concert filled with classical and worshipful music.

“It was tremendous to have this organ (at Saint Thomas) and we were very lucky to have a succession of organists who could do it some justice,” said Rick Calhoon, former Saint Thomas Finance Chair and who attended the dedication service. “Many parts of Saint Thomas are now being used in churches from Chicago to Bloomington, Ill., and we were happy to find a home for this organ at Kingswood.”

The organ originally was owned and used at Carnegie Hall in New York City. One of Saint Thomas’ first organists, Helen Lawler, helped make purchasing and installing it possible through fundraising efforts. 

It was perfect timing for Kingswood since the church’s old Allen organ had run its course and was an analog (non-digital instrument). “Repair parts were hard to find. In fact, they had to take some from an organ in an organ museum at one time. It was failing,” said the Rev. James Preston, Kingswood’s Senior Pastor.

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Former Kingswood organist Kevin Wong plays the newly installed organ from St. Thomas UMC.

Kingswood raised just under $11,000 to remove, transport, renew, and install the instrument. Faithful donors helped make it happen said Preston, who added a new organ would have been very expensive. “We are grateful beyond measure for a gift that strengthens our worship of God and brings such beauty and joy to our life together,” said Preston. “We will be able to be empowered for living as disciples of Jesus in our worship because of this amazing gift from the people of Saint Thomas.”

Saint Thomas UMC began as a new church start out of First UMC in Glen Ellyn in February 1966. The Rev. Bob McWilliams was the pastor when the first service was held at Arbor View Elementary School. More than 100 people joined that month in this church that would serve people in the south Glen Ellyn area. The church later purchased five acres of land near Route 53 & Butterfield Road and by May 1969 a building that included a sanctuary/multipurpose room was finished. In 2009 an addition was built to afford more space.

“Mission outreach was a constant goal for the congregation. Some of the mission trips included traveling to Honduras, Ohio, New Orleans, South Dakota, and Midwest Mission Distribution Center,” said Sally Grenzow, former leadership team chair at Saint Thomas. “Nurturing children and youth was also important through Sunday school, children's church, and Vacation Bible School.”

Grenzow says over the years students from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary served as youth directors and assistants and many of those young pastors in training are now pastors in the Northern Illinois Conference. Due to declining attendance with people moving out of the area and elderly members in retirement homes, plus a large mortgage debt for the last addition, Saint Thomas UMC was encouraged to return to First UMC of Glen Ellyn that originally sent them out.

The merger is going well said the Rev. Daniel Diss, the senior pastor at First UMC in Glen Ellyn. “Both congregations are working very hard with each other to integrate histories and traditions,” said Diss. Besides the organ to Kingswood, many other contents of the building were shared with several other churches. Altar furniture was given to a Chicago UMC in Englewood, hymnals, and Bibles were sent to the Philippines and First UMC in Glen Ellyn received chairs, tables and choir music. Diss says the gift of the organ to Kingswood honors Saint Thomas’ history, past organists and shows the strength in our United Methodist connection. "What served the Saint Thomas congregation for all those years can now serve this congregation and continue those legacies in ways that are faithful.”

Rick Calhoon, former Saint Thomas Finance Chair, shares the history of the organ with the Kingwood congregation.

Rev. Preston says the Holy Spirit was at work in making connections so this organ did not end up in a landfill but in a new sacred space. “Kingwood is beyond honored to have Saint Thomas be a part of their journey of loving God, serving others, and building sacred community as followers of Jesus,” said Preston. “The concert was an unbelievable blessing to all who gathered as we experienced the amazing joy of worshiping God together!”

Listen to a portion of the concert.

To hear the organ in person, Kingswood UMC’s classic worship with the organ is Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Contemporary worship is held at 9 a.m. The church is located at 401 W. Dundee Rd., Buffalo Grove, IL. For more info about Kingswood visit

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