First Presbyterian Church near Ely celebrated a milestone when their church organist celebrated her 50th anniversary with the church. And no signs of stopping! They held a special celebration in June to commemorate their church organist Sharon Furler of Ely.
Furler started playing organ at weekly church services when she was just 14 years old. She accompanied the church choir on piano for a few years prior to becoming organist.
To commemorate this rare milestone, a program was held in her honor at the church on June 26 featuring church members, area musicians and special guests. Over 100 friends and family attended the celebration and her brother, Ted Biderman, of Marion, who is a percussionist, performed with his praise band.
“My mother would tell me stories of when I was a little girl, I would sit on her lap during a church service listening to whoever was at the organ, and I would say, ‘Someday I’d like to do that,’” says Furler.
And for 50 years she’s been doing it with no signs of stopping.
Despite playing for five decades alongside eight different pastors at the country church, Furler still takes time to practice every week. She says she always felt she faced a disadvantage of playing with petite hands with short fingers, however, these obstacles haven’t stopped her from doing what she loves.
“Music is a very big part of my life and it has been wonderful to be able to share something that brings me so much joy with those around me,” says Furler.
In recent months, Furler had carpel tunnel surgeries on her hands preventing her from playing as she heals for a few weeks after each surgery, but she says she has every intention to continue her work at First Presbyterian for years to come.
Over the years, she has performed at countless weddings and funerals in the Cedar Rapids area along with nearly every Sunday service at First Presbyterian, missing only a few each year for scheduled vacations.
During her tenure, the church has owned three organs and two pianos. She recalls one mishap when an organ that had been malfunctioning for a time played its last note unexpectedly in the middle of a Sunday service. Unshaken, Furler finished out the service at the sanctuary piano and the organ was soon replaced.
Furler reports the busiest time for a church organist is always Christmas and Easter, with preparation for these seasons initiated many weeks in advance.
In addition to her duties of playing at Sunday services and accompanying the church choir, Furler has organized The Sounds of Christmas musical recital where she not only performs, but invites all church musicians regardless of experience level to perform. Furler is well known for encouraging and inspiring other musicians to participate by performing not only at Christmastime, but at any Sunday service.
“This is a rare and wonderful attribute of Sharon,” says Rev. Dr. Julie Schuett, pastor at First Presbyterian Church near Ely. “It’s not often an organist is so musically encouraging of others. It’s another reason we love her.”
You can see Sharon Furler at the organ most any Sunday at First Presbyterian Church near Ely at 9:30 a.m. services. First Presbyterian is located west of Ely at 11100 Spanish Road.
This is a link to a story The Gazette produced about Sharon Furler. http://www.thegazette.com/subject/life/people-places/organist-has-shared-her-gift-of-god-for-more-than-50-years-at-rural-ely-church-20160808