By MaryAnn Kromer
Although the choir at Washington Street United Methodist Church normally does not meet during the summer, it made an exception for a special "Celebration of Music" July 24. The church at 230 S. Washington St. is to be closed Monday as members join with Ebenezer United Methodist Church to form the new Faith United Methodist Church.
Laurie Sturtz has served as choir director for the past 41 years, and organist Jan Foy has worked with Sturtz for about 35 years. Whenever Sturtz could not be there, Foy stood in for her, and vice versa. Both played together for the musical service July 24.
"My mother was a church organist for 35 years, so I had a good teacher," Sturtz said. "I've played (piano and organ) since fourth grade. I was accompanist for the Community Chorus in Bucyrus."
Sturtz has decided to retire and find a new "church home" rather than move to the new congregation. She lives in Columbus and works for the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. A graduate of Colonel Crawford High School, Sturtz first landed in Tiffin when she attended Tiffin University. Foy joined the choir at age 12 when Sturtz was the organist and choir director. Sturtz invited Foy to play the organ on weekends when she was home from college. As a teen, Foy also played at other churches.
"The first job I had, I was about 15. The Baptist Church, out on Coe Street, was new. They were very kind and let me play. It was nice of them to let me have experience," Foy said. "But, I had played in high school. In high school, I played at Second United Church of Christ (on Jefferson Street). They have an organ there that is the oldest working Schantz organ in Ohio."
After Foy graduated from Ohio Wesleyan and returned to Tiffin, Sturtz moved into the choir director position, and Foy took the organist job. Both played for weddings and other occasions at Ohio Memorial Chapel at Tiffin Developmental Center.
"We still get calls to play out there," Sturtz said. "We get around."
"One of the things Laurie got us started on was taped accompaniments for cantatas," Foy said. "At that time, my mom played the piano and I played the organ. It was the old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Ever since then, Laurie picks out the music for us, and we've done cantatas."
Now, the recordings are available on compact disc. Sturtz said the choir has performed two cantatas each year.
The most recent performance was a combined concert at Christmas time. A few former choir members also returned to sing July 24. Foy said membership in the choir "is not a democracy" because the director is the sole authority.
"But honestly, none of us would have it any different than that," Foy said.
At Faith UMC, Foy is to share organist duties.
Although a church is more than a building, Foy said it will be sad to see the closing of a place where many friendships were formed and where she met her mentor. Foy said church members always showed kindness and appreciation toward her and Sturtz.
"To get paid for doing something I love, to be with people for years and years, you become very close to them. I studied organ in my lessons, and I certainly learned a lot there, but the practical things that I learned, I learned from Laurie. ... When I think of my music career, I think of Laurie," Foy said.
The congregation of Washington Street United Methodist Church is to celebrate its final service together at a 9 a.m. Sunday. A potluck dinner is to follow the service downstairs in the fellowship hall.
The Rev. Nathan Howe has been serving as pastor to St. Paul and Washington Street United Methodist churches. He is to continue his duties as pastor of St. Paul, which will move its Sunday service back to 10 a.m. Howe also is to assist the Rev. Donna Van Trees at Faith UMC as the regular presider for the 8 a.m. service.
The first worship services of Faith UMC will take place at 8 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Aug. 7.
For more information, call the Ebenezer UMC office at (419) 447-6748 or the Washington Street UMC office at (419) 447-2371.