LINDSBORG — Christmas will be different at Bethany College this year.

Jultide, the popular hymn festival typically held on the first Sunday in December, has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the semester ending Nov. 24, few performers will be left on the college campus.

However, Bethany faculty and staff put together a different type of hymn festival and a radio-style play that listeners could enjoy from their home computers on Sunday, Nov. 15.

Jultide was replaced with "Advent at Bethany: Journey with the Magi, a Festival of Discovery through Hymns, Scripture, & Reflections" and livestreamed at

The combination of hymns and reflections gave the college a chance to show off its new digital organ.

David Rankin, owner of RankinOrgans150 in Ellsworth, installed the Rodgers Artist Series 599T digital organ two weeks ago in Pearson Chapel on the Bethany campus.

Designs for Pearson Chapel included a pipe organ, and one wall has been designated for it, said Hentus van Rooyen, assistant professor of sacred music and the college organist. When the budget allows, the pipe organ will be installed there, he said.

In the meantime, the college purchased the digital organ with a grant from the Roubach family, which covered the full cost of $45,000 for the purchase and installation.

"It looks like a pipe organ and sounds like a pipe organ but it’s not a pipe organ," said Rankin, with stops the organist can pull out or push in to change the tone. "I don’t ever want to feel I’m replacing a pipe organ."

All the "stops" are pushed in or pulled out and are sampled, or recorded, from real pipe organs. Rankin programs the organ’s computer to fit the acoustic space and the organist.

Bethany College does own four or five pipe organs, but this will give students in the sacred music program experience with what they might actually play, Van Rooyen said.

"A lot of students will go out and play for churches," Rankin said. "A lot of churches have pipe organs, a lot of churches have digital organ, a lot of churches have old yucky electronic organs."

The organ made its public debut Sunday with the advent program. The program is available to download on the college’s website,