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The gift of ‘swag’: Retired organist remembers 60 years of Easter services

By Staff | Apr 10, 2020

Katie Morgan, of Shepherdstown, designed this Palm Sunday swag for the door of her grandmother's home, using music Mary Ann Morgan, of Shepherdstown, had previously played at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ. Toni Milbourne

SHEPHERDSTOWN — According to her granddaughter, Katie Morgan, Mary Ann Morgan began playing the organ for church at about 12 years old. Mary Ann retired from playing at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ in Shepherdstown at the end of June 2019.

“This is the first Easter I haven’t played in over 60 years,” Mary Ann said. The absence of that tradition left her feeling quite sad on Palm Sunday.

Katie took the opportunity to lift her grandmother’s spirits, by creating a “swag” for her door on Palm Sunday, despite the inability for the family to gather due to the coronavirus restrictions.

“When putting the swag together for her, it was clear to me that I had to put some of her music with it,” Katie said, explaining that some of Mary Ann’s personal Easter music was included in the decoration.

“When Grandma retired and I learned she was letting most of her music go, I asked for whatever I could get my hands on. I knew this was her legacy, and I wanted to find ways to hold onto it for her, our family and the coming generations,” Katie said. “I made Christmas ornaments out of some of the music for my family this past Christmas.”

Mary Ann said the thoughtful act made her cry.

“She’s very creative,” Mary Ann said of Katie. “When I retired, she wanted all of my anthems. I had copies of all of them I have done with choirs for over 60 years. When I saw the Palm Sunday anthem in the back of the swag, I just broke down.”

According to Katie, her grandmother has always shared the love of church music and the church calendar with her family.

“Growing up I loved getting the chance to hear her play in church. Now, as an adult and in ministry myself, having the opportunity to worship with her and hear her music has always been very important to me,” Katie said.

“Grandma and I have had many conversations about faith, church liturgy and music, and through those conversations she has blessed me with the gift of knowing just how important music is to her and her faith journey,” Katie said.

For Katie, hearing her grandmother play all these years and having conversations about the music and her faith have led her to have a deep respect for those who are church musicians and what those individuals bring to the church.

Mary Ann wanted to share the swag with friends and family; however, the quarantine in place does not allow for visitors.

“I live in the country and nobody really comes to the door, even my family,” she said. “I have a wonderful family and they certainly take care of me.”