The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

July 30, 2013

Why do we ring church bells?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 — Recently our church (Christ Episcopal in Albemarle) was gifted with an automated carillon or bell system. Our practice in recent months is to have the bells rung five minutes before our Sunday morning services and at the beginning of each service. Carillon systems like ours also play religious hymns at various times of the day.

Why are church bells rung? In addition to calling people to worship on Sundays, they have been used for other religious and non-religious purposes. For instance, they have been tolled to announce a funeral and “pealed” to announce a wedding or other festive occasion. Civilly, they were implemented to warn neighbors of impending emergencies and to mark certain national events. I remember hearing the bells of my home church – along with the bells of other churches – rung at an appointed time on July 4, 1976, announcing the United States’ Bicentennial. At the invitation of our president, many of our churches tolled their bells this past December, in remembrance of the victims of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

Although some church carillon systems are programmed to announce the beginning of each hour, and even quarter hour, most are set to announce service times and times of prayer.  At our church, we follow the “Catholic” custom of ringing the bells at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. This custom is referred to as “ringing the Angelus bells.” (Typically, the Angelus bells should also be rung at 6 a.m., but we don’t want to prematurely awaken our neighbors).  

The “Angelus” is a prayer that Roman Catholics are asked to say three times a day – when rising, at 12 p.m., and in the evening – to remind them that God is central in their lives. The origin of ringing church bells for this purpose was to ask farmers and neighbors to pause and pray wherever they were, while the monks (i.e., members of a designated religious community) in the local monastery offered their prayer to God in common, for the needs of the world. Thus, the ringing bells were miniature “calls to worship” and prayer to all those who were within their hearing.

Here is a quote from Thomas Merton, taken from Chapter 16 of his book Thoughts in Solitude: “Bells are meant to remind us that God alone is good, that we belong to Him, that we are not living for this world. They break in upon our cares in order to remind us that all things pass away and that our preoccupations are not important … They are the voice of our alliance with the God of heaven. They tell us we are His true temple. They call us to peace with Him within ourselves … The bells say: Business does not matter. Rest in God and rejoice, for this world is only the figure and the promise of a world to come, and only those who are detached from transient things can possess the substance of an eternal promise.”

If you hear church bells at 12 p.m. or at 6 p.m. – or at other times as well – please see this as an opportunity to take time out from your schedule to pray to the God who created us in His own image, to the God who redeemed us in Christ and the God who sanctifies us in the Holy Spirit. You’ll be glad you did.

Father Jim Bernacki is pastor of Christ Episcopal Church in Albemarle.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Maintaining hope

    Gardeners are facing challenges with the weather this year. It seemed like we were getting great conditions in April and May. The weather was warm and we were getting some good rains. Then sometime in June the rain stopped. It got so dry that I didn’t have to cut the grass. While I enjoyed the break, the garden was not happy at all. I was having to water quite a bit to keep the vegetable garden alive and growing.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd I may be a bit behind the times, but at least I can find ‘America’

    I seem to be reading about and dealing with technology a lot lately.
    I  love technology and have always been fascinated by gadgets of all kinds and the wonderful things they can do. You never seem to go through an entire day without some form of invention enhancing your life.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Meeting out in open helps negotiations move ahead

    RALEIGH – State lawmakers reconvened in Raleigh on May 14 promising a brief legislative session this summer, but as July moves along they are still in town and tackling big issues.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Larry's Sketch 7.16.14.tif They don’t give a darn for Duke University

    John “Duke” Wayne’s heirs are suing Duke University over trademark rights.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    WASHINGTON - For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Patrick Gannon Don’t forget the losers in state lottery

    RALEIGH – Behind every state lottery dollar that goes to education is a loser.
    There’s also a winner – the teacher whose salary it pays, the student who gets a scholarship or the district where a new school gets built. But we hear about the winners in advertisements and in press releases.
    This column is about the losers.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hodgepodge Cooling an overheated hedgehog and other summer travel stories

    Anybody with a pet during the summer inevitably finds themselves facing this question: What do I do with my pet on vacation?
    There are kennels for dogs, day cares for cats. Shoot, you can even find a friend to take care of your guinea pig.
    But what do you do with a hedgehog?

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • North Carolina Boasts Top Wildlife Magazine and A Success Story

    The following opinion piece was released by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission:

    RALEIGH  — When Wildlife in North Carolina, the magazine published by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, was named recently as the nation’s best in its category, it reflected more than accolades as a quality publication.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    CHICAGO - A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content