UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Church organist Louise Pelley (left) with minister Wendy Lowden. Photo: Courtesy of Wendy Lowden

Church organist has been leading worship for 86 years

And Louise Pelley is still going strong at 98 years old.

By Wendy Lowden

Louise Pelley was born on Feb. 1, 1920. The first time she played the organ for a church service at Bethany United in Harcourt, N.L., was in 1932, at the age of 12. Except for a six-month period when she was living in Galt, Ont., she has been Bethany’s organist ever since.

Pelley was just eight when she decided she wanted to play the organ so she could play all of the hymns she loved. There was no one to teach her, so she taught herself. In 1932, the church’s organist position became vacant, so young Pelley was asked to fill in for Easter Sunday. She did such a good job that the position became hers. Ever since, she has used what she calls the “talent God gifted me with” to fill Bethany with music.

Pelley has had many other positions in the congregation over time: she was the United Church Women’s group president for 40 years, Sunday school superintendent for 20 years and treasurer for over 30. “God has always been my guide, leading me through my entire life,” she says.

Outside of church, Pelley worked hard at building up two local general stores with her husband, Llewelyn, to whom she was married for 56 years until his death in 1995. She moved to a retirement home in Clarenville last year, so loved ones would not worry about her, she says, and gave up driving at age 95 for the same reason.

Pelley seems to know all the hymns. Does she have a favourite? “Not really,” she says. “As long as they praise God, they are fine with me.”

This story first appeared in the March 2018 edition of The UC Observer under the title "Longtime organist still playing at 98."

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image


Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image


July 2018

250 United Church leaders have a message for Doug Ford

by Emma Prestwich

They're urging the new Ontario premier to remember those in need as he carries out promised economic reform.


July 2018

Tracing Nelson Mandela’s path a century after his birth

by Tim Johnson

A travel writer visits some of the places that shaped the anti-apartheid icon’s life.


July 2018

Jamil Jivani sheds light on why young men radicalize

by Suzanne Bowness

In his book 'Why Young Men,' Jamil Jivani talks about his own experience as a troubled youth.

Promotional Image