Thieves take off with almost 2,000 pieces of historic church pipe organ

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 10:30 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Pieces of history... gone.

Now, one Memphis church is asking for your help finding its decades-old organ pipes after they were stolen Sunday morning.

It could cost the church thousands of dollars if they are not found.

Calvary Episcopal Church in Downtown Memphis was getting ready for the almost 90-year-old organ pipes to be restored in Massachusetts, but thieves struck before they could send them off.

Kristin Lensch, Calvary’s organist and choirmaster said, “It’s a devastating loss, but we are hoping it’s a temporary loss.”

Kristin Lensch, Calvary Episcopal Church organist and choirmaster
Kristin Lensch, Calvary Episcopal Church organist and choirmaster (Action News 5)

For almost 90 years, the church on North Second Street has used this instrument in weddings, thousands of church services, and baptisms.

Lensch said this is a tough loss, “This is a really important piece, not only to Calvary, not only to Memphis, but the entire organ world. This is a very historic instrument.”

According to the police report, sometime during the night or early morning between May 13 and 14, a yellow Penske moving truck, loaded with about 1,800 pipes, was stolen near the east side of the church.

(Action News 5)

Also in the report, Joseph Rotella, the owner of Spencer Organ Company, told officers on the scene that the pipes had a value of almost $800,000, but there is a catch to its value...

“They have amazing intrinsic value to this project, they are historic. It is going to be very hard to duplicate them, but they don’t have a lot of value outside of this organ, but they have a tremendous amount of value for the instrument here and the community,” said Rotella.

Lensch said, “We are hoping that someone finds this truck, and brings it back to us so that we can continue to use this instrument to the glory of God.”

Penske is cooperating with this investigation. They did give police the last known location of the truck, which was near Bullington Road in South Memphis.

The license plate number of the Penske truck police are looking for is T65589. The truck is out of Massachusetts.

If you have any information on where this truck might be, call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.

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