TOWNSEND -- Every Sunday, a 12-member worship band fills the space beside the altar.
During the week, two keyboards, percussion instruments and music stand speak silently of the musicians' enthusiasm.
Also silent, every day of the week, is the 1867 George Stevens and Company organ. The wiring for the electric blower became too worn and frayed to be used, said the Rev. Kevin Patterson, pastor of the West Townsend Baptist Church. The single keyboard fronts a facade covering 425 pipes. The old organ takes up space the musicians could use.
The organ arrived in West Townsend in 1912 from the Townsend Congregational Church, a gift from Justin Hodgeman. When it was first installed, neighborhood boys pumped the bellows. Later, the church acquired a used blower, the same one still in the basement.
In 1978, the instrument was refurbished by the Andover Organ Company, a Methuen business specializing in repairing and maintaining pipe organs. Before doing anything to the unused organ, Patterson needed to be sure it was worth saving.
"There is a resurgence of interest in older music and traditional worship. The sound of an antique organ, real air flowing through resonating pipes, can connect us with our roots," Patterson said.
Financially, the instrument is worth saving, the Andover Organ Company told him. The cost for a new, similar organ is over $175,000.
That information left the 75-member congregation with a problem. They did not have the funding needed to replace the blower and move the 4,000-pound instrument to the balcony.
The pot is empty. The church has spent over $300,000 maintaining and rehabbing the nearly 200-year-old church since Patterson arrived 19 years ago. Grants, donations and bequests have paid for work as varied as removing bats humanely, replacing the furnace, reroofing and installing an iron handicap access ramp to the front of the church. Work and fundraising are still underway to reroof the spire.
Over the course of the renovations, Patterson met many craftsmen. Recently, he met one more, a high school senior doing an internship at the Andover Organ Company.
The company sent Peter Rudewicz, now a senior at the Innovation Academy Charter School in Tewksbury, to help the church. He volunteered to move the organ. Another part of his task will be to restore the American black walnut case, currently covered in pink paint. He will also remove the gold paint from the front pipes and restore their original Victorian stenciling.
Tuning slides will make the organ easier to tune. If the instrument can accommodate more bass notes, the intern may add to the flute stop, one of the sounds the organ makes when a lever is pulled.
The Tewksbury high school student, who plans to major in engineering and minor in organ at college, saved the church even more money. Using the Internet, he found a free, used blower in Vermont that should work for the instrument.
The balcony needs to be shored up and extended in the middle to accommodate the heavy organ, Patterson said. Mark Haines, a specialist in post-and-beam construction, will do the work. The Ashby craftsman has worked on the building in the past.
The church needs money to pay Haines and to buy materials that will be used to set up the organ in its new location. Funds are already coming in, given in memory of Christopher David Snapp and Marion Koivu. One couple donated the cash gifts from their recent wedding and a local businessman contributed.
Rudewicz plans to raise $4,000 online through the fundraising site kickstarter.com. Donations can also be made at 461 Main Street, West Townsend, MA 01474. The restoration effort has a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/restoretheorgan.
Patterson and Rudewicz hope the work will be complete for Easter so the church can have a worship band and a traditional organ.
"We can embrace the new and cherish the old. That is my vision," Patterson said.