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Making a joyful noise

People sometimes accuse Barbara Goodwin of looking angry when she plays the organ during worship services at First Baptist Church of Demopolis. But she insists she’s really just concentrating.

Goodwin grew up in Indianola, Miss. She still remembers that the church she attended there boasted a pipe organ. She remembers, too, how the old hymns like “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” and “Down At the Cross” sounded when played on that organ. “Seems as though I’ve always been in churches that have organs,” she says.

It is the “variety” of sounds that can be produced by the organ, Goodwin says, that she finds so attractive.

Goodwin has been the organist at First Baptist for more than 14 years. Her husband, Denny, the former pastor, is now director of missions for Hale County.

Goodwin comes down squarely in the middle of the debate over whether a modern worship service should feature traditional hymns or contemporary praise songs.

“I think our congregations today are missing something valuable when they don’t learn to appreciate the old hymns and anthems,” she explains. “But I also think the older adults need to be open to the contemporary style of worship.”

The services at First Baptist are broadcast on television each Sunday morning. Goodwin says she no longer pays much attention to the cameras. “Everybody in this church is used to seeing themselves on TV,” she confides.

So if you happen to catch one of those broadcasts just remember, Barbara Goodwin isn’t really angry. She’s just concentrating.

— Dale James