Linda Binder celebrated her 40th anniversary as organist at Trinity Lutheran Church in New Holland at a surprise luncheon on Sunday.
“She’s focused, she's organized and she has the ability to choose music that is pleasing to the congregation, fun for the choir to sing and a challenge for me,” said Linda Krick, Trinity's choir director for 19 years. “That's a stiff bill to fill.”
Binder, who was born and raised in Bowmansville, began playing the piano at age 5 and the organ at 12. At 14, she became organist at her small country home church, St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Bowmansville.
At Sunday's celebration, Krick gave Binder a 20-page Shutterfly book Krick put together with comments from church members and staff and photographs, including one of Binder at the console when she was 18.
One of the comments was from Earl Pickel, her high school music teacher who encouraged her to try out for organist at Trinity.
Tribute from a mentor
“Linda was a senior in high school and only 18 years old,” he wrote. “I was a teacher at Garden Spot High School at the time and was very aware of her exceptional talent and maturity. There is not space here to fully express the respect and appreciation I always felt for her and her work.”
Binder has always felt at home at Trinity.
“From day one, I was well received, well supported and doing well,” she said. “Over the years, members of the choir come and go, but we always have a good core group for the size of the church. It's a pleasure working with them.”
Trinity, with an average Sunday attendance of 125 worshippers, has 30-plus members in the choir.
After 40 years, serving as Trinity's organist is still a thrill for Binder.
“I might have a down morning, but by the time I leave church, I feel energized and glad I was able to provide music for the congregation and enhance their worship experience in a meaningful way.
“I still love the challenge of picking out new music,” she added. “I still have the desire to learn new music. That pushes me along and keeps me from being stagnant.”
At Trinity, the organ is in the balcony. On a typical Sunday, when Binder plays the postlude, a group of members will stand in the nave listening and show their appreciation by applauding.
Krick said it's always a pleasure to work with Binder.
“When we rehearse, she knows exactly where I want to begin.”
Understands the liturgy
Binder went back to the book for another comment, this one from the Rev. Glenn A. Beard Jr., a former pastor at Trinity.
“Linda Binder is every pastor's dream!” he wrote. “She is an incredibly gifted musician who clearly understands the history of the liturgy and plays it incredibly well. She has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to Christ and his church.
“Martin Luther would have loved knowing and working with Linda. He said, ‘Next to the word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.’ Linda knows and shows how to practice that noble art.”
One member wrote he wished Binder could be Trinity's organist for another 40 years but realized she would be 98 by then. So he settled for “decades to come.”
The Rev. Charles Oberkehr has been Trinity's pastor for just four years, but her talent is not lost on him.
“Linda's been a blessing for us for 40 years,” he said, “and we appreciate the way she makes our faith come alive through music.”