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Resurrected octogenarian drums it up in church

 


Phyllis Orr plays the drums during praise band practice at Trinity United Methodist Church in Annapolis. Orr spent the last six months proving she was still alive after a mistake by the Social Security Administration declared she was deceased.
A UMNS photo by George Lewis.
 

A UMNS Report
By Melissa Lauber*

Oct. 25, 2007

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that if Christians wanted him to believe in Jesus, they'd have to start looking "more resurrected."

Phyllis Orr, of Trinity United Methodist Church in Annapolis, Md., is doing just that.

Orr, a drummer in the church's praise band, spent last spring and summer being "deceased." She discovered her condition last April when she went to fill a prescription. The pharmacist gave her the news: She was "coming up dead on the computer."

One errant stroke of a pen by someone in the Social Security Administration caused her to expire legally. But at 81, Orr isn't through living — not by a long shot, she says.

The Rev. David Wentz, Orr's pastor, brags about her. It's not every pastor whose church has a resurrected octogenarian laying down the beat on Sunday mornings, he said.

Wentz was sensitive, however, to the difficulties that Orr has had to wade through because of the bureaucratic blunder. When one is declared dead by the government, credit cards are cancelled, Social Security payments are cut off and prescriptions can't be filled.

"I felt like I was on the other side of two-way mirror. I was yelling 'I'm still here,' but no one seemed to hear me," Orr said. "It was nerve-racking. Every time I went to the mailbox, I got something else telling me I'm dead."

The experience has taught Orr that "it's harder to get something fixed than it is to cause it to happen."

Orr's willingness to be a modern-day Lazarus with grace and humor has garnered media attention. She has been featured on CNN and the Annapolis Capital newspaper.

She enjoyed sharing the story of her life. The mother of two and the grandmother of four worked as a physical education teacher. She learned to play the drums 70 years ago — in the orchestra, rather than marching band, because girls at that time weren't allowed to wear pants.

When "being dead" was feeling overwhelming, Orr did drop out of the band. But, she said, Wentz reminded her in a sermon that: "You should use what God gave you."

"I was born with a lot of rhythm in my body," she said. "I'm needed. I'll keep on."

*Lauber is the editor of the UMConnection, the newspaper of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

Trinity United Methodist Church

Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference


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