From high atop the flat pebbled roof of the Storm Lake United Methodist Church, Chuck Olsen displayed a smile almost as big as the building's sanctuary.
Olsen, a custodian at the church for three years, had one of the best seats in the house Sunday afternoon, as he was able to watch members of the local congregation unload parts of the church's new massive pipe organ, the centerpiece of a year-long renovation effort by the UMC to upgrade and expand their facility at 211 East Third.
One by one, pieces of the 1,036-pipe instrument were carefully handed by workers of the Bedient Pipe Organ Company out the rear of a large semi-truck to eager Methodist worshipers in a process that took 90 minutes to complete.
Bedient employees will help assemble the organ, which weighs over three tons, this week, and it will then take approximately three to four weeks to fine-tune the instrument in time for its inaugural appearance sometime near the end of February or beginning of March.
The event was one of the final steps in the restoration and remodeling project, and Senior Pastor Ken Bell said he was extremely pleased to see the sanctuary filled with pipes and pieces of the organ.
"It's really the final leg of all of this, and it's good to see," Bell said. "It's a historic day for our congregation."
"The new pipe organ has really been the center of everything that's happened here over the past year," UMC Building Co-chair Jim Brown said. "Purchasing the new organ last year really was the impetus of the whole renovation effort, and it's great to see the organ in here right now. There's still some work to be done, but it's good to see all of the pieces in here and good to know that people are going to be hearing sounds from the organ very soon."
The church sold its old pipe organ more than a year ago to another congregation, which used the aged instrument for spare parts to help repair its own musical centerpiece. The Storm Lake congregation then purchased a new pipe organ from Bedient, a renowned 32-year old company based in Lincoln, Neb., but knew the chancel area would need to be rebuilt in order to accommodate the size and weight of the new musical item.
The decision to remodel the chancel section of the sanctuary quickly expanded to include other parts of the church, and Brown said the congregation felt it would be wise to do all of the reconstruction at once rather than fix only one or two sections of the building at a time.
"One thing just led to another, and pretty soon we had decided to redo everything," Brown said. "We had an amazing number of volunteers lend their efforts, and we were able to tear down and put up new ceilings, redo the floor and the carpet, rewire the building, put tile down in the entryways and clean off all of the old stained glass windows and put them back up. It was an amazing effort, and we're seeing the results of all of that work today."
"The chancel had to support at least two tons, and then the floor had to be looked at, and it took off from there," Bell said. "There was so much work put into this by everybody, and it's beautiful to see. It was a tremendous effort by everyone involved to get this done."
In addition to the refurbished sanctuary, a new brick facade was put on the outside walls, an elevator was installed to assist handicapped worshipers, a new library was built and a fellowship hall, which will include room for a combination volleyball/basketball court, is nearing the end of completion.
All of the work, however, could draw its lineage back to the purchase of the organ, and Olsen said he was ready to hear the bass and treble notes of hymns and songs come out of the myriad of pipes in a few short weeks.
"It's going to be great when it's finished," Olsen said. "The old one had hundreds of pipes, and this one will be similar to that, but this organ's pipes will be exposed, which will be great to see. It's going to be exciting to hear the first notes of that come out for the first time in church."
Bell said the amount of the people who showed up to help shows that many in the congregation share Olsen's enthusiasm about the project, and thought it was great to see the level of involvement from the congregation on a warm Sunday afternoon.
"There were a lot of people interested in this project, and I think people just wanted to help and be a part of this," Bell said. "Everyone wanted to do something. Even if it was carrying in one piece of styrofoam or one of the pipes, I think people wanted to contribute and be a part of this, because it's a special day for all of us here."