Church ponders fate of organ

A local church is pondering what to do with a historic organ it has had dismantled in storage for six years that it is being prodded to move. The decision could mean a huge expense, or giving up the treasure.

“This thing fills a semi,” said Rev. Ashlee Wiest-Laird, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, about the enormous pipe organ. She said simply moving it anywhere could cost $10,000.

First Baptist at 633 Centre St. lost its rare 1859 organ in a devastating 2005 fire. It then bought an 1872 organ as a replacement and put it in storage—in the former Blessed Sacrament Church in Hyde Square.

First Baptist has renovated large portions of its church since then, but not the sanctuary. And now New Atlantic Development, the co-owner of Blessed Sacrament, is prodding First Baptist to move the organ, according to the other co-owner, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC). Wiest-Laird said First Baptist has been told it has about a week left to move the organ, adding that she is grateful for the years of storage and doesn’t blame the owners.

JPNDC spokesperson Sally Swenson said the organization is in talks with First Baptist about finding another organ storage space, possibly in the JPNDC’s Brewery Complex.

Blessed Sacrament has sat empty since 2004, with a planned condo conversion yet to materialize. JPNDC spokesperson Sally Swenson said that the organ move request is not a sign that any work is beginning.

First Baptist bought the organ from a New York church through a broker in a deal that requires the return of the instrument if it goes unused, Wiest-Laird said. She said First Baptist paid $5,000 for the organ and a total of $40,000 including moving costs.

First Baptist is concerned that storing the organ in its own church building will delay efforts to renovate the sanctuary and eventually rent it out as a fund-raiser, she said.

For more information about First Bapist, see

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