The ringing of the bells

Photo by Rafael Garcin - Accessed on Unsplash

It is not known exactly when or where the bell was invented, however, bells have been with us for millennia. One of the oldest bells discovered so far is a clay bell and is thought to be over 3000 years old. 

In ancient times, bells were rung to communicate with people over great distances. Bells were also rung to sound the alarm at the approach of enemies, or impending storms or fires. Farmers began hanging bells around the necks of their livestock. This made it much easier for the farmer to find them when they wandered away from their paddocks.

Over time, bells became an integral part of many religious ceremonies. Later still, bells were incorporated into the actual structure of the church itself. Most towns and villages in Europe, ring their bells every Sunday morning to call people to worship. 

Bells have also been used to ring out hope, freedom and peace.

During the Second World War, bells all around the world fell silent as the horrors and destruction of war played out.

When it was finally over, bells once again rang out with joy, declaring the return of peace to the land.

My father loved bells. I suppose that affinity was due to his background. He was born in Hungary and as a young boy, he was an active member of his church. He often participated in the ringing of the bells, an activity that greatly inspired him. He loved being involved and helping out in his parish. Then one day he realized that his destiny was to become a minister of the church.

Over the intervening, years his calling would take him and his family far away from his homeland to many continents and countries. Eventually, the road led to the United States. Dad and mom moved to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania in 1959 to minister to a Hungarian congregation there.  In the weeks that followed, he learned the history of the church, and, the existence of an old bell stored in the basement of the church hall.

The original wooden church was built in 1800 by a Methodist congregation. It took them until 1870 to save enough money to have a bell made by the Bell Foundry of Seneca, NY. The bell was installed and used by the Methodists until 1910 when they sold the church to the Hungarians.

The new owners used the church for several decades until it was demolished in 1957. Then a new church was built, this time with bricks, but unfortunately, it did not have a tower. Thus, the bell was boxed up and stored in the basement.

It saddened my father to hear about the bell and he decided to do something about it. The 51st anniversary of the church was fast approaching so he convinced the congregation to resurrect the use of the old bell. A solid granite stand was placed at the entrance of the church, and then, the bell was ceremoniously placed upon it.  Once again, the old bell became instrumental in calling people to worship.

After my mother died, dad moved to Calgary to live with me. On a beautiful summer’s day, he and I took my two nieces to Heritage Park for a wonderful day of fun.  While we were there, I noticed my father intently watching the train as it made its way around the park.  Later, I learned, that it was not the train that fascinated him, but the bell that was mounted on the locomotive. 

The following week he made a phone call to Canadian Pacific with a special request. He told them who he was and that he was the minister of a small church in Calgary that did not have a bell. He said he just spent a day at Heritage Park, where he saw and heard a bell on the locomotive.  It seemed to be just the right size and he wondered if Canadian Pacific might have a bell they no longer needed. He was told, that as it happened, Canadian Pacific was in the process of dismantling most of their steam locomotives, and so yes, they would be delighted to donate one of their bells to the church.

There was great excitement in the church on Sunday when dad announced that they were going to get a bell. First, they had to make sure that the small tower would be able to support the bell.  Once that was confirmed, then licenses to wire and reinforce the tower had to be obtained.

When everything was in place, the bell was shipped out from Montreal and installed. In appreciation, and to celebrate this new addition, the congregation put on a wonderful feast for the attending Canadian Pacific representative. 

In 2000, my sister and I decided to vacation in Europe. After a long and very difficult flight, we arrived in Paris completely exhausted.

At our hotel, we stumbled upstairs and literally fell into our beds.  In the morning, we were awakened by the ringing of the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral.

We jumped out of bed and opened our windows as wide as we could. We did not want to miss one single chime of those wonderful bells. From where we stood, we could see the spire and the two towers as they reached towards the sky.

What an emotional and stirring moment!  What a superb welcome by Paris, the City of Lights.