The Down, Dromore and Connor Organ Scholarship Choral Evensong Service was held in St Columba’s Parish Church, Knock, on Sunday September 17.
The Service of Evensong celebrated the Board, tutors and scholars of the Organ Scholarship Scheme which, generously funded by an anonymous benefactor, is a scheme that trains organists for three years in service of public worship.
In his sermon, the Very Rev Shane Forster, Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, spoke about the nuanced role of a church organist and the sadly increasing number of churches which find themselves poorer without them.
Church musicians, through music, draw the congregation to worship God with hearts and voice, and experience the fellowship of singing together, Dean Forster said.
He reminded the congregation, from the fate of Uzzah (1 Chronicles 13:1-14), of the importance of obedience to God’s instructions in worship, finishing with the poignant image of Jesus singing a hymn, in fellowship with his disciples, before he went to pray on the Mount of Olives.
At the end of the service, the two scholars who have now completed the course, David Dunlop (All Saints’, Belfast) and Tanya Zachara (St Mark’s, Dundela) were presented with certificates.
There are currently nine scholars: Year 1: Helen Neale, St Mark’s, Dundela; Rachel Smyth, St John’s, Malone; Laura Smyth, St John’s, Malone. Year 2: Katy McKnight, Holy Trinity, Portrush; Lucy Steele, St Aidan’s, Glenavy. Year 3: Larissa Fleck, St Patrick’s, Armoy; Clare Kelly, St Patrick’s, Jordanstown; Dr Mark McKinty, St Cedma’s, Larne & Inver; and Grace Steed – St Mark’s, Dundela.
Tanya Zachara said of the scheme: “As a former organ scholar, a few words of encouragement to anyone else who might consider applying for this scheme or beginning any other musical journey.
“I feel a sense of awe when I look back at how God responded to a single, earnest prayer that God would use the small, insignificant musical ability that I had, for his glory.
“It would never have occurred to me then that I might one day be supporting a congregation on the organ, when not so long ago, I was too nervous to play the piano to an audience of even one person; singing in a choir when once upon a time I mimed the words of hymns in church services because I couldn’t bring myself to sing out loud.”
Tanya added: “It is never too late to start, or restart, or continue. A joyful noise is better than a flawless one. And the best thing is that, when it comes to worship, we are all beginners, and there is no time limit, no endpoint to growth and to service.”