Preaching through music, one woman’s decades-long career

MEDFORD, Ore.– Every Sunday for nearly 60 years, Virginia “Ginni” Peterson has soothed hearts and minds at Medford’s First Presbyterian Church. She says that her playing the organ is her way of preaching.

For 57 years, she’s sat behind a large wooden block containing all of the dials, pumps, keys and various pieces necessary to work an organ. With each new Sunday, the congregation has come to know and love the woman who creates all of the music they hear.

“The spoken word doesn’t always reach people,” said Peterson. “Sometimes the music does.”

Raised in a musical family, Peterson learned how to play the piano when she was five. She says her father, a church choir director, was a major influence.

“So I just kind of inherited music,” she said with a smile.

The world has changed since she was a little girl, with new modernized instruments for her to learn. But Peterson still finds the humor in remembering how far she’s come.

“I was in the eighth grade, the first wedding I played for and it was a pump organ,” she said. “It was not electric, you had to pump like that to get air in the bellows.”

Many in the congregation have worked with Peterson over the years and have always been amazed by her ability to play a variety of instruments and always seem to stay on beat.

“She’s got a great sense of humor, she’s a fine musician and she kept me on track and saved my bacon many times,” said retired choir director Eric Smith.

Finding humor in everything isn’t always possible though. At the end of this year, Peterson plans to hang up her robe and let someone else take the reins.

It’ll be a difficult transition for everyone, especially for Peterson.

“I just don’t know what to say,” she said softly. “Music has been my whole life.”

While Ginni Peterson preaches with her fingers, it’s with her voice she would like to thank everyone for listening.

“I would like to say thank you, for their support,” she said, holding back the tears.

 

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