File photo The Old Rugged Cross Church in Pokagon is hosting a monthly concert series.

Archived Story

‘O that old rugged cross’

Published 11:58pm Monday, June 13, 2011

The Old Rugged Cross Foundation (ORCF) has booked several talented musical performers for the next two concerts in its new “Third Sunday at Three” series supporting restoration of The Original Old Rugged Cross Church in Pokagon.
For the Sunday concert, the ORCF will welcome back international Christian baritone James McDuffy, who has shared his vocal talents and Christian message during several Old Rugged Cross events since 1998. The Three Rivers native now lives in Michigan and Florida.
“Once you hear James’ powerful voice, you will never forget him,” said Molly Shaffer, ORCF treasurer.
The Kalamazoo-based Southern Gospel vocal quartet “His Harmony” also will perform Sunday accompanied by pianist Esther Vandenberg of Delton, Mich.
They will perform gospel and classical music.
Several Cass and Berrien county residents will share their musical talents during the July 17 concert.
They include Darrell Vandenberg singing “Forsaken” and the soulful “Danny Boy,” performed by Austrian natives Erika Linsdell and her daughter, Krista Vrabel, and Linsdell’s Australian-born husband, Mick. Linsdell also will sing a classical selection and play the piano as Vrabel sings “Ave Maria.”
Kevin Young will sing “The Holy City,” and “The King is Coming.”
The five performers now are Pokagon Township residents.
Bertie Morgan of Edwardsburg will sing “Rise Again” and Mike Baker of Niles will perform “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”
Additional vocalists and accompanists will perform in the concert’s classical, Christian and secular selections.
The “Third Sunday at Three” concerts at The Original Old Rugged Cross Church will begin at 3 p.m. the third Sunday of each month through November.
The concerts are open to the public and free of charge. The church doors will open at 2 p.m.
Area vocalists’ and musicians’ interest in performing to benefit the restoration of The Original Old Rugged Cross Church led to the new concert series.
Performers for additional concerts will be announced soon.
The ORCF also conducts monthly Community Hymn Sings on the first Sunday of each month through December. The next one will be on July 3. Hymn Sings begin at 6 p.m. at The Old Rugged Cross Church.  They, also, are open to the public, without charge.
Those attending each Hymn Sing determine which traditional hymns the gathering will sing.
Concerts and Hymn Sings conclude with congregational singing of “The Old Rugged Cross” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”
The church now has sanctuary heating and cooling systems.
“Restoration work this year has included insulating the former kitchen and the sanctuary attic, installing the remainder of the electrical system, adding sanctuary air conditioning, and installing heating and air conditioning in the former kitchen, which eventually will be a museum,” said Robert Shaffer, ORCF president.
By the time of the June concert, the former kitchen/future museum should be drywalled.
The ORCF also plans to install the first two replica painted, leaded glass windows in the sanctuary.  Donors have funded four of the 9-foot-tall replica windows. Four additional windows remain available for funding. The replica windows’ design follows a consistent overall pattern based on pieces of the church’s original windows, but each is personalized according to donors’ wishes.
The church is where, in 1913, composer the Rev. George Bennard of Albion, Mich., publicly first introduced the final version of his hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross.”
The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is in Pokagon, one block south of Pokagon Highway, just east of Highway M-51 (halfway between Niles and Dowagiac). The site includes the half-acre Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden.
The Original Old Rugged Cross Church is a registered Michigan Historic Site. The church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of historic significance.
For more information, contact the ORCF at 683-4540; P.O. Box 41, Niles, MI 49120; orcf@aol.com; or www.the-oldruggedcross.org.

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