06 June 2007

Church Bells

To say that the land around Saint Paul's is flat for miles is a bit of an understatement. The result of the flatness, though, is that the bell tower of St. Paul's is the outstanding feature of the landscape for miles. I took my usual noonday walk - a mile down church road - and when I turned around and glanced up, there the Church and above all the tower stand. It looms over the corn, the empty fields.

And the tower led me to think about the great bell housed in it. She's written around with Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr - the German Gloria. I think she sounds a G, but I'm not entirely sure. She's a big bell. Not the clangy sort, but the booming sort. And she rings out regularly. We ring her before all services, during confirmations (when we remember!), after weddings, and she is tolled (a hammer mechanism that strikes her side by a separate rope) after funerals.

But it's the before service ring that I was thinking about as I walked home. The one we sing about:

Built on the Rock the Church shall stand
Even when steeples are falling.
Crumbled have spires in ev'ry land;
Bells still are chiming and calling,
Calling the young and old to rest,
But above all the souls distressed,
Longing for rest everlasting. (LSB 645:1)

I think of how through these many, many years, the bell of St. Paul has rung out, calling people to come and receive God's gifts, to come and live from His proferred mercy, to come and taste the goodness of the Lord and enjoy His unending rest.

And how many times the call goes unheeded. It sounds over homes where people used to come to receive the gifts of God and they come no more. But the bell still rings out, still invites, still summons. I know on the very few occasions when I've been sick and unable to conduct the service, there is a lump that rises in my throat when I hear the bell sound. It calls and its call reaches deep. I can't believe that it doesn't do something similar to those who heeded its calling for years but now choose not to. May the Holy Spirit use the Church bell as He uses so many other things to call His lost and wondering children to come home:

Grant, then, O God, Your will be done,
That when the church bells are ringing,
Many in saving faith may come
Where Christ His message is bringing:
"I know My own; My own know Me.
You, not the world, My face shall see.
My peace I leave with you. Amen." (LSB 645:5)


Anonymous said...

Pastor Weedon,
Thank you for that post. I love church bells and I love that hymn. About a week before I was confirmed, we had a terrible storm and our church steeple did fall. So that hymn has special meaning and fond memories for me.

Diana Frost

William Weedon said...


Thanks for the kind words. I am so sorry to hear about your steeple. Was it ever restored? Our daughter parish, Trinity in Worden, also lost the top of their steeple in a storm years and years ago. They chose not to restore it. :( It looks kind of sad, like it's just aching to point all the way up again. Maybe it will someday. But I don't like their bell at all. It's the clangy sort.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Weedon,

I sincerely appreciate Bells as well. One of the things my home pastor would have done when 'chimes' were added to the Organ at our church (new church, no belfry, so sad) was to have the organist (his wife) ring the bells during the saying of the Lord's Prayer. He indicated it was one of the traditions from Frankenmuth (sp), MI. It was for those who could not make it to services so if they were home they could know what part of the service was going on at the church.

That to me is a good tradition!!!

Maybe we should re-introduce some traditions like that in the church!!!

Darian L. Hybl

Anonymous said...

Pastor Weedon,
Yes, the steeple was restored; that was in 1979. I still have a piece of wood from the old steeple in my box of confirmation mementos (seems kind of silly now). It's an old church. The kind where the pulpit is on level with the balcony. I'm not there any more, but I hope the bell is still ringing.

The Catholic church in Eureka has a steeple that looks like it is cut in half. Our neighbor, a member there, says that is the way it is suppose to look, but I can't remember why. It is a certain type of church architecture.

In Christ,