The organ has been a recent addition to some Orthodox Christian Churches within the United States of America. Traditionally, the Orthodox Church does not use musical instruments during church services. During the twentieth century a few parishes of Greek and perhaps Antiochian heritage had installed organs within their temples.
The organ (from Greek όργανον) is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions. Each keyboard instrument is typically operated by either the hands or the feet.
The organ is a relatively old instrument that dates back to the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria[], the man who is credited with the invention of the hydraulis. The organ was not a particularly popular instrument in neither the ancient nor the medieval church, but after the end of the Age of Exploration organs were increasingly found in liturgical services across the United States.
Archbishop Athenagoras Spyrou, who took over the Greek Archdiocese in 1931, was a major advocate of organs and he encouraged their usage in America. While he encouraged this, however, it is likely that they had already become relatively common before 1931.
In George Anastasiou’s “Αρμονικη Λειτουργικη Υμνωδια,” Anastasiou claims to be the originator of organs in Greek Orthodox churches. In a paragraph appropriately titled “Organ Introducer” he says:
"I am convinced that I first introduced the organ in our Churches in America with the musical cooperation of ever-memorable artist and musical [sic] Spyridon Saphrides upon my arrival in America and my appointment as precentor-choir leader of the Greek Church of St. Sophia in Washington at the time of the progress and reformatory presidency of Mr. T. H. Theotokatos, lawyer and at that time teacher of this community in the year 1921. Later I introduced it also in New York and in other places by special musical-historic lectures, descriptions in our Greek press, and by special teaching in the choirs of our communities, which I formed, and lately in the beloved Greek city of Florida, Tarpon Springs, where there is played today, in that very beautiful cathedral church of America (as it is called today by all the Greeks and Americans by reason of the Pan-American celebration of Theophany services every year) an organ of great value electrically, microphonically, megaphonically, and with chimes, on the great singing tower, the bell tower of about 100 feet in height of this Greek Church of St. Nicholas in Florida, called the Greek singing Tower of America."
It is uncertain why organs were introduced to churches in America, but it may represent an attempt to "Westernize."
The National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians, in its position on the usage of organs in church, says that the organ's main purpose is to assist the choir and the congregation in "maintaining accurate intonation," as many parishioners and volunteer choir members may not be very musically inclined or have a musical background. They also strongly discourage the inappropriate misuses of the organ, such as when it overpowers the choir and parishioners' voices, or is used in a way that does not properly complement the church music. The National Forum fully advocates the use of the organ in church services, so long as its use adheres to the proper guidelines presented in their official position paper.