Unsung Saints Advent Devotions 2019

2nd Sunday after Christmass

John 6:41-47

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Nell, Organist and Generous Giver

St. Matthew’s began as an English Sunday School out of the, then, German St. Paul’s church and was organized as a separate congregation in 1892. When a boiler fire burned to the ground the first wooden church on 4th street, the congregation eventually relocated to a new building at 17th and Ann. With the outbreak of World War II, the first of over 200 Liberty ships began to be built in Wilmington. As the Great Depression ended, Lutherans from the Piedmont of North Carolina moved to Wilmington for work, and St. Matthew’s began to grow. Among those arriving in Wilmington were Nell and her husband Pete.

Nell was the organist for several years at St. Matthew’s. Subsequently, she trained Brenda to take over the organist position, and Nell began a long tenure as organist for St. John’s Episcopal, which was conveniently situated next door to her home.

Eventually, Nell retired and returned to St. Matthew’s as a regular worshiper. Her interest in the music program remained very strong. When the congregation decided to acquire a new Austin pipe organ at the 100th anniversary in 1992, Nell and Pete were integral to the fundraising along with Ernest and Vera, Herbert and Lucy, and many others. The new organ drove the expansion and, to some extent, the reorientation of the nave to its present arrangement. None of the older members were very happy with the attempted theater-in-the-round concept. As one retired engineer remarked, “This building was meant to be a long rectangle with a center aisle.” The reorienting of the nave back to a center aisle remains a lively topic of conversation even to the present day. Nell, Vera, and Lucy talked about that from time to time.

When Pete died suddenly as the result of an electrical fire in their home, Nell decided to honor her husband by being the major donor for the trompette-en-chamade (the rank of bright trumpets visible on either side of the organ façade pipes). Earlier, she had given a major gift of new cassocks and cottas for the choir, which is the traditional choral attire in liturgical churches. After Nell’s death, her estate left a nice gift to the organ fund, which has funded repairs, tuning, and some expenses not included in the most recent expansion. Nell, Pete, and many of the saints that were part of the 100th anniversary organ project would be thrilled with the 125th anniversary project that has met the goal of the original organ design. We have an anticipated final invoice coming from Austin Organs. Perhaps, some or a few would be willing to honor Mrs. Nell with a memorial towards that invoice. Our treasurer Carol will be glad to work with you.

Each Eucharist, Bill leads us from the organ console as we join with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven in the praise of the one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The saints in the Church Triumphant are united with those in the Church Militant through the Lord Jesus. I imagine a young Nell and Pete, Vera and Ernest, Lucy and Herbert, and so many more of the saints filling the nave around us and beside us. When you are enjoying the beauty of worship, give thanks for Nell, Pete, and all the others who have handed on to the present and future generations wonderful gifts to God’s glory!

Dear Father, thank you for Nell, Pete, and all those dear parishioners whose vision, sacrifice, and love for You continue to be such a blessing in our day. Help us to do our best to continue their legacy of faithful, joyful service that generations to come may be drawn into Your embrace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, NC

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.