Thursday, June 2, 2016

These Old Walkin' Shoes: For Whom the Bell Tolls

This is a new thing for me. I’ve been walking every morning before work as part of my workout routine. I walk about 2 miles each morning, with Tuesday allowing me a longer walk than other days. Spending about an hour on these walks gives me a lot of time to think, and my mind really gets going. There’s a lot of ideas that have come from these walks. I thought it would be a wonderful thing to perhaps share them with all of you.

On my daily walk, I stroll past the old church on the corner of Walnut and Vine Street. The building has been long abandoned after the congregation moved to the old St. Anthony’s building. However, I’ve noticed that the bell is still hanging in the belfry, complete with a chain and clapper. That bell is still a usable bell. (I would love to buy this bell and have it installed at the old schoolhouse on Vine and Garden Streets, but that is a story for another time.)

Once I realized that the bell was still there, I started thinking about how cool it would be if that bell rang one more time, beckoning its parishioners. I wondered how many people over the history of the church heeded the call. How far would those peals of ringing reach? The I started thinking about the other churches in the city and whether they still had actual bells or were simply broadcasting ringing bells at the appropriate times? If anyone knows about the bells in your particular church, please let me know.

Why do we ring bells? Mostly, bells are rung as part of a religious service, though they are also used to mark times during the day. With all of us carrying phones that double as watches these days, we don’t need the bell ringing as much as we used to. However, old traditions die hard and many churches still mark 6AM, noon, and 6PM with the ringing of the bells.

The placement of bells in the church date back to about 400 AD, with Pope Sabinianus officially sanctioning their use in 604. Additionally, bells have chimed for freedom. Specifically in our own history, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia comes to mind. Other times, the bells have rung for the transmission of great news across the country and the world.

At the end of World War I, the bells rang out at the moment of the Armistice, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. During World War II, Britain actually stopped ringing church bells during the war, relegated to an alarm in case of invasion by the Germans. Again at the end of the war, bells were rung to celebrate the new peace.

Back to the bell on Vine and Walnut Streets, I am entranced by the idea of ringing that bell one last time for the old house of worship. Will the peals echoing through the streets near the church  bring people out of their homes? Will they understand that it’s one last call, beckoning those who hear it to pause and reflect on days gone by?

Or maybe it’s simply the fact that I want to pull the chain and let the bell ring. I mean, how cool would that be? How many have actually heard that bell ring, and wouldn’t some of them love to hear it one more time? I’ve never heard it ring. I think it’s time to change that.

And that is what I think about sometimes on my walk. I hope you enjoy some of these short, little columns. I have a lot of thoughts roll through my head as I walk along in relative silence. Some of those thoughts are destined to be featured here on the Cooler. Some are best kept to myself. Because of all the time I have on these walks, I’ve restarted my ideas journal. So stay tuned for more writing, more blogs, and more thoughts. Until next time…

Craig Bacon has been told a time or two that he has bats in his belfry. On occasion, it hasn’t been stated quite that nicely. Still, he perseveres.

Next Week: A multi-part history series about some of the places passed on daily walks.