December 28, 2013 11:34:30 PM
This is a day of mixed emotions for Myra McAdams.
Fairview Baptist Church's organist is retiring after more than 25 years of Sunday morning and evening services, Wednesday night choir rehearsals, Christmas, Easter and patriotic presentations, nursing home programs, weddings, funerals and hours upon hours of disciplined practice.
McAdams hasn't taken a vacation in six years. It may take a while to learn how to relax, she admitted.
When McAdams became organist for the east Columbus church in 1988, the choir had about 15 members. A quarter century later, she has become accustomed to accompanying a choir that averages nearly 100 singers and an orchestra of 30 to 40 instrumentalists on any given Sunday.
"The first five years was work," she said, with gentle humor. "But after that, once I acclimated, it was a joy, and the church has been wonderful -- very encouraging, very supporting," continued the self-taught organist who graduated from what is now Mississippi University for Women in 1961 with a music degree and a major in piano.
Trikes to Learjet
McAdams has held tenure in four different sanctuaries on Fairview's campus on Airline Road. Each new building has been larger than the last, to accommodate the growing congregation.
By contrast, most of her career with the church was with one music minister, Slater Murphy. Murphy left Fairview in July 2011 after 27 years, to become director of church music with the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Jackson.
"Occasionally we see God perform a powerful act that is remarkably obvious to an entire church family," said Murphy. "Such a thing happened when the Lord sent Myra McAdams to serve as Fairview's organist."
McAdams did not know she would find a career at Fairview when she was first a visiting accompanist there in the early 1960s. In the late 1980s, Fairview organist Ann Adams became ill and asked McAdams, her friend, to assist her. After Adams passed away, McAdams accepted the full-time position.
"I had a small organ at home for family entertainment, but when I came to Fairview it was like going from riding a tricycle to piloting a Learjet," she said. "But God was good...This is a very loving, sharing church with a strong bond of love and friendship."
People throughout north Mississippi and west Alabama have been directly impacted by McAdams' keyboard ministry, said Murphy, describing the organist as a "fabulous musician, gifted by God on so many levels."
Her skills have been on display at Southern gospel singings with the well-known McAdams Quartet, and at regional revivals, concerts and music festivals.
"The highest compliment I can give her is this: Myra's faithful service consistently brought great glory to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," said Murphy.
Fairview's current music minister is Danny Baxter, who joined the staff as minister of worship in February 2013. McAdams was one of the people he spent time with while interviewing.
"One of my fears was that she would retire before I got here, but she graciously hung around and has been here, encouraging and supportive during the transition after Slater's ministry," said Baxter. "Her faithfulness and her commitment to the ministry and to the Lord has been a great example for all of us."
Working closely with music directors has been a special bright spot of McAdams' career, she said. "You get to know these people really well and see their love for music. ... I'm leaving with all positives. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time."
After today's recognition by the church -- which McAdams will share with her husband, Leon, and some of her children and grandchildren -- the retiring organist isn't quite sure how it will feel to be sitting in the congregation, "soaking it all up" in the future. But she looks forward to serving in other ways. And she anticipates indulging in a few pastimes she hasn't had much time for -- reading, cooking and traveling to visit family.
After more than 25 years at the church organ, McAdams has come to that final day. "I expect to get through the service and try to keep my focus on what I'm doing and go from there," she said. "I know that it will be emotional."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.