MOSS POINT, Miss. (RNS) For the past 69 years, Ida Mae Cumbest has been the pianist and organist at Caswell Springs United Methodist Church—a tenure that qualifies her as the world’s longest-serving church organist.
Cumbest has played at Caswell since 1942, which prompted her son, Mark, to contact the London-based Guinness World Records in hopes of honoring his mother for her 90th birthday.
After reviewing the collected documentation, Guinness on May 11 issued a certificate that states: “The longest tenure as a church pianist and organist is 69 years, achieved by Ida Mae Cumbest (U.S.), at the Caswell Springs United Methodist Church… .”
“It is kind of unbelievable,” Ida Mae Cumbest said. “It is such an honor to be able to experience that. It is wonderful and worth what little effort I feel like I put forth to get that recognition.”
Mark Cumbest, who calculates that his mother has played in excess of 10,000 services, said the idea about the world record started as his mother’s 90th birthday approached.
“I got to thinking—69 years—I don’t know anybody that has any kind of vocation for as long, that has been doing anything for 69 years on a regular basis,” he said.
Ida Mae Cumbest has some advice on being good at what she does: “I think to enjoy it,” she said, “and not get sold on yourself, and then do it for the Lord.”
(Harlan Kirgan writes for The Mississippi Press.)