Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Henry Kurtz and His Pipe Organ

Henry Kurtz was a printer, editor, publisher, historian, and minister born July 22, 1796 in Bonnigheim, Wurttemberg, Germany. He received a classical education at the secondary school level and in 1817 immigrated to Pennsylvania where he took a position as a school teacher. There he studied with a Lutheran pastor and was ordained in the Lutheran Church where he served several years as a pastor.

He later moved to Ohio where he met the Brethren and was baptized by George Hoke in April 1828. At his baptism he renounced his Lutheran ordination but was soon placed in charge of the Mill Creek congregation even before being ordained by the Brethren. Kurtz would make many important contributions to the Brethren in publishing and as a clerk of the Annual Meeting.

Despite the opposition of many Brethren to the ownership and use of musical instruments, Kurtz kept in his possession and played in private a small pipe organ he had brought with him from Germany. The organ was built in 1698 and the builder had inscribed on the organ: May God grant that many beautiful and spiritual psalms and songs may be played and struck in this work to His name's honor."

Henry Holsinger, who worked for Kurtz as an apprentice printer, said, "Brother Kurtz was quite a musician, vocal and instrumental .... I shall long remember one occasion on which I heard him perform and sing one of his favorites ... When I complimented him on his success, he explained that he had been tired of reading and writing, and had sought recreation and solace in the music."

The organ was later kept by Kurtz's descendants and was almost forgotten until the 1950s, when it was placed in the care of the Historical Committee. Although it was briefly exhibited at Annual Conference in 1958, it was not completely restored until 1976, when it was played at Annual Conference in Wichita, Kansas. The organ is on display at the Church of the Brethren General Offices. It is now 310 years old, ten years older than the Church of the Brethren.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia