As long as I can remember, I have had a fascination with the church organ. I think that's what began my interest in playing an instrument. We did not have an organ at home, so I "played" on a small fake fireplace that we had in our living room. I would play and play. My Mom asked me one day why I wasn't wearing my shoes and my response to her was that I was "playing the organ like Mrs. Neufeld". Mrs. Neufeld was Marie Neufeld at the Gospel Mennonite Church now the Nassau Street Church. We attended Gospel Mennonite until the Morrow Gospel Church began in St. Vital but I never lost my admiration of Mrs. Neufeld. She had "the best job".
I grew up in a musical family. We all play an instrument, can read music well and sing. My parents, Neta and Frank Thiessen inspired that as did their families. There has always been music and in thinking about it, it was natural for us to be involved in some way. Piano lessons were part of our week. Practicing was a challenge for me but I reluctantly did it, most often though, I needed to be reminded.
For a few years in the 1970s, Morrow Gospel had a Children's Choir and I had the opportunity to be part of that. I sang my first solo as part of that choir.
In my late teens, I had the opportunity to be part of a mixed octet and the adult choir. I enjoyed singing in both, with the challenging music that stretched my abilities, and I enjoyed the challenge. Singing, whether it was with my sisters, larger family, a mixed trio, choirs, solos, worship team - it didn't matter. I loved to sing and still do. My interest in playing the organ though never went away.
I began playing the organ at church for my own enjoyment. The more I played, the more I improved. Now, I need to be clear. I'm a pianist who loves to play the organ. I'm not a trained organist and anyone who is a trained organist will watch me play for 2 minutes and know that I'm not a trained organist. But, that's OK. I have had many people over the years encourage me in my ministry and if people are being blessed, then who am I to challenge that. I will continue to be involved in music ministry as long as I can.
It's exciting when young, curious children come and sit at the organ with me, amazed at all the keys and buttons. I’m happy to show them how the organ works, and that you can use both your hands and feet to create a beautiful sound. Perhaps some of these youngsters will be encouraged to learn to play the organ.
My sister, Lil and I enjoy playing together. She plays piano, I play organ. It's fun, and at times it brings me to tears and gives me the chills. We play for congregational singing, offertory, communion and at funerals. Playing at funerals is one of the biggest blessings especially the congregational singing. Since funerals are normally scheduled during the day, I need to leave work in order to play. I work for IG Wealth Management and have for over 40 years. I have received amazing support from my leaders at work when it comes to playing at funerals. They respect and encourage my commitment and see it as a valuable service back to the community.
I’ve had support and encouragement over the years from friends, family and my work community, and that has been part of the blessing.
Gin Thiessen is a member of Morrow Gospel Church, Winnipeg Manitoba.
This article was originally published in The EMMC Recorder Vol 59, No. 4