VERO BEACH — If music speaks for a people, then the church organ at Community Church says volumes for its congregation. After three years of renovations to various parts of its campus, the church finally received the jewel in the crown of its plans: a larger organ that will serve the church for generations to come.
The excitement over the organ’s arrival was palpable in an email from Sally Daley, chairman of the board of music of the Community Church of Vero Beach.
“The organ is arriving! The organ is arriving,” she wrote of the highly anticipated arrival and installation of a world-class pipe organ in the newly remodeled church sanctuary. The installation of the Lively-Fulcher organ will cap a major remodeling project resulting from the continuing growth of the 2,312-member non-denominational congregation in downtown Vero Beach that was founded in 1924.
“We’ve been in the process of all of this since 2005. The decision about the organ was made in 2006 and many people felt strongly that this is the vision for the church now and for the next generations.
“For us theologically, music has said what words cannot say and the music speaks of God’s spirit and lifts us to higher places by creating a spirit of God surrounding you,” said Rev. Dr. Bob Baggott, senior minister of Community Church and a columnist for sister publication Vero Beach 32963.
The two-phased expansion and renovation project was planned in 2005.
Though the national economy took a marked downturn, church officials and members were unwavering in their decision to complete the $12.3 million renovation/improvement plan, which included a new pipe organ at a cost of $1.6 million.
Church officials extensively researched 21 organ building companies and tested 48 organs before reaching a unanimous decision to recommend that Lively-Fulcher Organbuilders of Alexandria, Va., create the new instrument.
Earlier this month, two 18-wheel trucks arrived at the church filled with boxes of organ components. It was expected to take about two weeks to assemble the instrument and another three months to fully tune and “voice” it.
Community Church leaders and congregants were doubly delighted because the church’s former smaller pipe organ was donated to a Washington state church desperate for a new organ but unable to afford one.
The 14-year-old Pieter Visser built organ was now too small for the newly expanded Community Church sanctuary.
Acclaimed pipe organ builder Mark Lively said his company presented a comprehensive design for the new organ as well as the necessary modifications to the sanctuary to maximize the organ’s sound.
New tile flooring, raising the ceiling of the chancel area to accommodate the 35-foot-tall organ facade, repositioning the magnificent stained glass Christ window by the Conrad Pickel Studio, adding acoustical diffusers and other renovations have been made.
“This is unique in that it is an unusually complete design with variety of color and scope,” Lively said. “What is also exceptional is this organ is not a normal church organ because it also needed to be a concert instrument for the church’s vibrant music programs. Most churches don’t also serve as concert halls so there was a balancing act here.”
He noted that the Community Church’s commitment to music for the present and for generations to come is “one of the biggest statements of faith that a church can make.”
The church’s renovations started with the demolition of the old Fellowship Hall, which was then replaced in 2009 with a 14,000 square-foot space that houses a new Fellowship Hall, a commercial-sized kitchen that can serve up to 500 people at one time and a colorful.
The building also houses Youth Hall known as “Commotion,” which has state-of-the-art electronics, high-tech entertainment gadgetry, a caged basketball court and plush seating for classes and other activities.
There is also a soda fountain-like refreshment center replete with barstools and high-tech, industrial-styled decorating elements. Community Church has been designated a Red Cross recovery shelter, Neel said.