If you're a member of a church with a big-time pipe organ with a full-time musician, consider yourself lucky. Not all congregations are so fortunate.
Some churches struggle every Sunday to find someone who is able to play the keyboard during worship.
That's why The Pilgrim Press, in cooperation with the UCC's Worship and Education Ministry, has spent the past year developing a set of pipe-organ accompaniment CDs for creative use in congregational worship services. The series of includes an accompaniment for each hymn in The New Century Hymnal, the UCC's hymnal published in 1995.
"The purpose is not to put any organist out of work," says the Rev. Timothy Staveteig, publisher. "The purpose is to give music options to congregations that may need help in strengthening their music offerings, especially in smaller congregations that may have limited opportunities for musicians."
Recording high-quality accompaniments for each of the hymnal's 617 hymns has been no small task, and the bulk of that responsibility has fallen to the Rev. Scott Ressman, the UCC's minister for worship, music and liturgical arts.
Ressman invited and brought together many of the UCC's finest organists, who volunteered to assist with the project. The recordings took place at several Cleveland-area UCC churches known for their high-quality organs. And the sound quality is superior, Ressman said.
"Great care has been taken to present each hymn in The New Century Hymnal with stylistic integrity," he said.
In addition to use in worship, the CDs also can be helpful for worship planning, choir warm-ups, hymn sings or other occasions when an organist may not be available, such as weddings and funerals.
Because of the high-costs associated with producing and packaging the musical CDs, orders received before shipment will take place in various stages. Orders received before September 2008 will be shipped in part. The first volume is expected in April, the second volume in May and the remaining volumes in June and September.
Listen to sample selections and order online at thepilgrimpress.com.