Tuesday, August 9, 2011
The Sound of the Bell
I have not had the privilege of serving a congregation with a bell (well, not yet, at least!). In New York a family connection with Verdin made it possible to install an electronic carillon. It was not a real bell but it gave us some of the ambiance of a bell -- sounding the hours with hymns and the services with a peal. I do not know if it still works but it sent forth the sound of the church and the call of God into the 14 acres of woods at the edge of another small town (this one in the Catskill Mountains).
The parish I now serve has a bell -- but no place to put it. (If you are reading this and know of a fairly straight forward and not overly expensive way to mount a cast iron bell weighing some 600 lbs, let me know!). We are looking for a free standing location, mounted high enough to prevent "accidental" ringing, and yet low enough not to deal with the inherent structural difficulties of wind and heavy object high in the air. Every time I pass the bell, I long to hear its sound.
At Redeemer on Rudisill in Fort Wayne, where I was consecrated a deacon in November of 1976 and where I served as occasional organist, sometime janitor, regular field worker, and faithful congregant for 6 years, there were three bells. This positively sumptuous treasure of bells sounded its peal for worship, funerals, and for my wedding, among other occasions. The bell ringers went by their clock and I learned the hard way that the bells won out in competition with the organ prelude. I synchronized watches with those ringing the bells to prevent that from happening in the other times I sat at the organ console there. It remains one of the most treasured and pleasant memories of Redeemer -- the peal of the three bells!
One blogger put it this way: the sound of a Church bell is an icon of the voice of God. It’s blessing reaches as far as the bell is heard. I think they got that right. Nothing says "church" like the sound of a bell. I know that many would say that the organ or voice is what the voice of the church sounds like but the bell is clearly the call of God, calling into the world, into the busy-ness of the day, and into the hearts of His people to come. Come and gather around the means of His presence, the Word and the Sacraments. Come and receive the grace purchased and won by the obedient life, life-giving death, and death-defying resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Come, heavy laden with sins and guilt, troubles and trials, disappointment and disillusionment, sorrow and struggle, turmoil and regret... come! Come, seeking joy that sadness cannot overcome, contentment that fills your longing, and peace that passes understanding.
Someday soon, before I leave this place or retire, we will get that bell up on its stand that it may peal out God's call to the world... (unless the world with its sound restrictions and zoning ordinances attempts to silence the wonderful ringing tone of God calling to His people and through His people to the world...