Hinners Saved: Oklahoma’s oldest organ, and a 1995 Bombing survivor, gets new life and a new home in Norman.

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NORMAN, OKLAHOMA -- He does more than just practice inside the Trinity Lutheran Church.

When Evan Bellas sits down to play this particular pipe organ, it's still very much a religious experience.

The redemption story is certainly there for the instrument Bellas plays every Sunday.

The Hinners Company of Ekin, Illinois built it for the German Methodist Church in Oklahoma City back in 1909.

One of the city's founders, Anton Classen, and the rest of the congregation put a few extra $20 gold pieces in the offering place and there it played until the morning of April 19th, 1995.

The Murrah Bombing seven blocks away shifted the organ off its foundation.

Performances largely stopped after that.

"It suffered a lot of water damage," says Bellas, who actually helped restore the organ. "There was dust and dirt in it."

Hope was in short supply until the American Organ Institute at OU found it and reached out to pastor David Nehrenz about saving it.

"They actually went in there and disassembled the thing piece by piece," he recalls, "And they stored it in their warehouse and have been working on it ever since."

Trinity Lutheran used an electric organ for years but they passed a modern collection plate and gave new life to this Hinner, which turns out to be unique for its longevity.

Bellas says, "It's the oldest surviving extant organ in the state."

Pastor Nehrenz can't quite hear the new organ from his office but he can feel it move the air from his place at the front of the congregation.

He says, "I love pipe organs because they are living, breathing instruments."

Both he and Even Bellas have noticed the congregation moving closer to feel it too.

"We notice people really moving in towards the center so they can get the full experience of hearing it."

So many pipe organs have gone, ripped out of their original perches, sold for scrap.

This one was lost for a little while, but it now saved, and sitting right at home in another old church where the breath of life is still a sweet song.

The Trinity Lutheran Church in Norman held a special dedication concert for their restored Hinners on February 11, 2018.

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