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UCC Amistad Chapel Organ Finds New Home

Last year, the United Church of Christ decided to sell the building housing its headquarters at 700 Prospect Avenue in Cleveland and move to a new, smaller, and less expensive office space. That meant the closing of the beautiful Amistad Chapel on the first floor of 700 Prospect. Parts of the decorative, symbolic items that graced the chapel were incorporated into the new space. But there was no room for the freestanding 14-rank Bedient tracker organ with pipeshade carvings that also represented the Amistad story. What to do?

The UCC looked to Connecticut, site of the historic Amistad event. The Rev. Cleo Graham, minister of Faith Congregational Church, UCC in Hartford, CT suggested that her congregation could provide a home for the organ. The historic predecessors of Faith Church had raised funds for the defense of the Mende captives who, in 1839, had been accused of murdering the crew of the Amistad slave ship. Their defense by John Quincy Adams in front of the Supreme Court resulted in their acquittal in 1841. The church helped provide funds for the Mende to return home and two members accompanied the Mende back to what is now Sierra Leone. So, it was fitting that Faith should receive the Amistad Chapel organ. They renovated a lovely room with stain glass windows, raised the ceiling a few inches and reinforced the floor in preparation for the organ. When it arrived, members of the congregation helped unload the truck and carried it in piece by piece. The organ and the new Amistad Chapel that it now occupies was dedicated on Saturday, February 25 in a joyful ceremony.

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Performers and friends at the Service of Dedication of the Amistad Chapel Organ (Bedient 2000, II/14 tracker) at Faith Congregational Church in Hartford CT, the oldest Black church in Connecticut and third oldest in the country. Those who performed are (L-R): Alex Belair (organ technician and organist), Eustace Straker (Bloomfield Congregational Church, UCC in Bloomfield, CT), Bill Hively, Dr. Jonathan Berryman (Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church, UCC in New Haven, CT) and host Wayne Dixon (Faith Congregational Church). They are joined by Edward Clark (First Church of Christ, UCC, Farmington, CT and UCCMA) and the Rev. Cleo Graham, pastor of Faith Congregational Church.

The symbols carved into the organ’s pipeshades are (L-R): the UCC logo, the Amistad ship with star, a school of fish, a lighthouse, and a symbol of light.

UCC Musicians Association

P.O. Box 370631

West Hartford, CT 06137

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