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Bishop Gene Robinson dedicates organ at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church

The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, left, Bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese, of Concord blessed and dedicated the newly decorated Bedient organ on Sunday afternoon at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Berlin along with organist Dr. Susan Ferre, artist Andre Belanger, and Charley Lang, M.D., all of Berlin. At the Bishop’s invitation, choir and vestry members also touched the organ’s painted wood case as he blessed it. (Photo by Edith Tucker) (click for larger version)
May 12, 2010
BERLIN — "Move over National Cathedral!" exclaimed the Right Rev. Gene Robinson, the ninth Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, after processing into St. Barnabas Episcopal Church and hearing organist Dr. Susan Ferre play the exuberant Opening Voluntary, "Variations sur Lucis Creator" by Jehan Alain of France.

The bishop presided at a special service on Sunday afternoon to dedicate a newly decorated organ and to celebrate Holy Communion.

"Every time I come to Berlin, it gets better," Bishop Robinson said cheerfully.

The Bedient Organ Opus 37, originally built in 1993 for Dr. Ferre's home in Oklahoma, now features angels playing instruments and making music on the protective door panels that close across the front of its facade pipes, all designed, fabricated, and painted by artist Andre Belanger of Berlin.

The Bishop welcomed everyone to "a great occasion to dedicate a beautiful instrument," but especially those who were not members of the parish. Parishioners and clergy from other churches and congregations as well as those from St. Barnabas were on hand, and nearly every pew was filled.

Dr. Ferre, a Fulbright Scholar who has performed in Europe, Brazil, and throughout the United States, played music by Bach, Boehm, Tunder, Krebs, Billings, Proulx, and Brahms. She and her husband, Charley Lang, M.D., a baroque cellist, commissioned Mr. Belanger to decorate the organ.

The Rev. Fran Gardner, rector of St. Barnabas, and seminarian Richard Davenport assisted Bishop Robinson in the service.

An eight-member choir of four women — Kristen Bushway, Lynn Dion, Betsy Hess, Gail Scott — and four men — Andre Belanger, Tim Dion, Dr. Charley Lang, and David Smith — performed.

When Bishop Robinson blessed and dedicated the organ "to be set apart for Christ's holy service," he invited members of the choir and vestry to touch it as he thanked God "for putting it into the hearts of your people to make offerings for your service…."

Senior warden Ms. Hess, junior warden Larry Jenkins, treasurer Christine Lindsey, clerk Pamela Carrier, Linda and Wally Bibbey, Dr. Lang, Cindy Morin, Chuck Dodge, and the Rev. Ken Lindsey gathered around the instrument, each with a hand on its painted popular-wood case.

One of the door panels features angels soaring over a black bear walking alongside the Androscoggin River in Berlin, and its counterpart on the other side, angels flying over some white sheep in a field in a town in Germany where Dr. Ferre had spent time earlier in her career.

"These animals are the equivalent of Isaiah saying that 'the lion will lie down with the lamb,'" Mr. Belanger explained after the service concluded and everyone gathered in the newly renovated undercroft for a sumptuous reception.

Other symbolic gestures and materials were also incorporated the artist pointed out: suspended in the paint in two of the panels is a ground shell from the Sea of Galilee, some olive wood particles from Jerusalem, and some earth from Berlin. In his notes at the back of the printed liturgy and program, Mr. Belanger concludes: "The greatest part of this painting is that, if the viewer chooses to look deeply enough, one will perceive 'the artist in all of us."

Varney Smith
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