When Thirza Mobley Sloan began attending St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in 1961, she never dreamed she’d spend 50 years as the church organist.
“I married Tim Sloan, and he’s been here all his life,” she said, explaining how she came to join the church. “I was already playing the organ from college.”
Sloan, originally from Memphis, attended Rhodes College and took lessons from Dr. Adolph Studerman, who was the organist at Calvary Episcopal Church.
When she began attending St. Matthew’s, the organist at the time, Peyton Smith, gradually allowed Sloan to take over playing music for the services.
“He wanted to get out of it and, for many years, he would substitute if I was out of town.”
Sloan has never taken payment for her service to the church.
“I just enjoy doing it,” she said. “I have always played a musical instrument, and I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t have a musical instrument. I like to play.”
And though she enjoys playing for St. Matthew’s, Sloan said sometimes she’d like to visit other churches.
“Once in awhile I’d just enjoy going to another church and enjoying the music there. And that’s something I always do when I go on vacation; when I’m gone, I’m always somewhere on a Sunday morning, preferably somewhere with lovely music.”
In addition to the organ, she also plays piano and bassoon. She cannot sing, however, unlike the rest of her family.
“I came into a family of singers, and I was the accompanist,” she said, laughing. “My father played the trumpet when he was in high school, but (my parents) were both singers and both of my sisters sing. I didn’t get that gene.”
To honor her half century of service to the church, a concert has been organized in her honor.
“This is something we really wanted to do for Thirza,” said organizer Fr. Bill Ryan. “She has contributed a lot to this church and this is just one way we could thank her.”
The event, which will take place on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m., will feature local organists Fred Bickel, who plays for Ravenscroft Episcopal and St. Anne’s Episcopal; Eddie Mack Owen, organist for First Presbyterian Church in Covington; and Richard Townley, a lawyer who often substitutes for Bickel.
The church’s organ has also recently been repaired and updated, something that had not been done since before Sloan began her time as organist.
Following the event, a reception will be held in the parish hall and refreshments will be served.
“I thought (the concert) was a really sweet idea, but totally unnecessary. I’ll be here regardless.”
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church is located at 303 Munford Street, at the corner of Munford and Washington streets, in Covington. Plenty of parking, and nursery, will be available.