Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Exhibit 2, Organ drowned

The city of Houston in southeast Texas was initially built on the south bank of Buffalo Bayou. The bayou begins its trek near Katy in northern Fort Bend County, and flows east across Harris County. Texas's final battle for Independence was fought along the banks where the bayou feeds into the San Jacinto River. The old bayou also plays a part in what was one of the first "worship wars" of Texas Baptists. When it was dredged in the late 1800s, pray tell what might have been found?

The first Baptist Church in Houston was constituted in 1841. The early life of this young body was troubled around about by many things -- not the least being the introduction of an organ to aid the music (circa 1847, after the building of the first house of worship). According to B. F. Riley's History of the Baptists of Texas, the organ's appearance and disappearance were equally mysterious. " organ...was put by some one unknown, into the First Church of Houston, and became the occasion of no little disturbance. The consciences of some of the saints were wounded by the presence of so ungodly a thing, and the agitation reached such a pitch, that the instrument suddenly disappeared. It was afterward found in the bottom of Buffalo Bayou, which flows through the city, going as it came, it is not known how."

Burning and drowning organs might seem a bit harsh -- even ungodly -- by most 21st century standards. But by 19th century standards such righteous indignation was well raised. David Benedict, writing of Fifty Years Among the Baptists in 1860 stated, "Staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon have tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries..." (Page 283)

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