Michael Morgan, an organ specialist from Houston, and two others are working around the clock to repair the organ at First Presbyterian Church in Victoria.

Their goal is to have the organ, which was damaged during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, ready to play for the Mission Presbytery, a meeting of 134 South Central Texas Presbyterian churches, at the church Friday and Saturday.

“We are one of the smaller churches in Mission Presbytery, so we are hosting more people than are on the rolls of our church,” said Interim Rev. James DeMent of First Presbyterian Church, 2408 N. Navarro St. “We can do it. We have the spirit and the ability and the enthusiasm, and we’re proud of the Crossroads’ spirit.”

The church sustained such severe damage during the hurricane that services were moved to the parish hall for 18 months. The organ was ruined by electrical currents that rippled through power lines when lightning hit a utility pole behind the church, said Robert Wyatt, organist and choir master at First Presbyterian. The specialists have been working since June to not only replace the organ’s console but also revamp its pipework.

The organ, with four keyboards, a pedal board and 32 ranks of pipes, was moved from the original Presbyterian church in downtown Victoria to its current location in 1966. Some internal workings of the combination organ, which uses both pipes and electronics, date back to 1937.

DeMent expects between 200 and 250 visitors during the course of the two-day meeting.

Presbyterian churches do not stand alone but rather operate together in particular geographical areas, he said. Texas is so vast that Mission Presbytery, headquartered in San Antonio, is one of three necessary to cover the entire state.

Geographically, Mission Presbytery “stretches from the Rio Grande Valley to Del Rio; into the Hill Country as far north as Adamsville; southeast to Collegeport; south to Brownsville; and places in between, including Austin, San Antonio, Victoria, and Corpus Christi,” according to an email from church member Bonnie Wilkinson. “The population of Mission Presbytery includes over 300 teaching elders and approximately 21,800 lay members,”

At the meeting, the church leaders will enjoy fellowship and worship. They will perform charitable work and take care of church business.

Friday, the visitors will offer their support to local charities in various ways. The organizations they will visit include Christ’s Kitchen, Victoria Christian Assistance Ministry, Perpetual Help Home, Victoria Islamic Center, Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach Center, Pine Street Community Center, Promise Pointe, The Vine School, Kidz Connection, a missionary team that serves Japan and Golden Crescent Court-Appointed Special Advocates.

Each group of visiting volunteers will help the nonprofits in areas of need that were identified in advance. For example, Sister Rebecca Janacek, director of Promise Pointe, identified a need to clear brush on the land on which the tiny-home community is located. The community aims to help solve homelessness “one mustard seed at a time,” DeMent said.

“The visitors are bringing chainsaws and brush saws, and they will be working,” DeMent said.

Elena Anita Watts covers arts, culture and entertainment for the Victoria Advocate. 

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