In January, I wrote a story about an old bell. It was manufactured in 1884 and spent the first 100 years of its bell ringing life calling Episcopalians to worship at the Church of the Beloved Physician in the little town of Mentor.
When the church closed in 1980, the bell worked its way to St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Bemidji, in hopes that it would resume its bell-ringing duties. That didn't happen, and the bell was stored away with no expectation of it ever "ding-donging" again. It really didn't matter, as there seemed to be very little interest in the bell anyway.
Well, that all changed when our centennial year of 2012 rolled around. We needed to come up with ideas on how to celebrate and commemorate this very special event. As luck would have it, someone suggested restoring the bell and constructing a bell tower. The idea received unanimous support. Although we knew the cost of such a project would be prohibitive, we liked to think there was an outside chance that it could happen.
Now, six months later, guess what? Thanks to all of you who gave generous donations to the project or bought or sold raffle tickets, this historic bell is going to ring again!
The Centennial Committee is happy to report that the bell construction project is right on schedule. The 25-foot steel tower is being fabricated by JC Welding and will soon be ready to be installed onto the concrete base, which was built by Zetah Construction.
So keep your ears open. Our bell could be ringing and calling us to worship almost any time now. But hopefully it won't be calling just the St. Bart's folks to worship. We want all our friends and neighbors to know that we are a welcoming, inclusive community, and we invite everyone to worship and have fellowship with us.
Now that the project is almost completed, how do the members of St. Bart's feel about it? I think Carol Carpenter, our senior warden, spoke for all of us in her statement:
"I feel as though we will be very proud of our bell tower for years to come. It preserves a bit of history of the bell and early church life in rural Minnesota. We are honored that we have this opportunity to be another part of history by erecting the tower in our 100th year.
"It will establish a landmark for our church in Bemidji and will be a symbol of reaching out to the town and world," she continued. "Hopefully it will keep us focused on our mission of daily opening ourselves to the work that Jesus is calling us to do by calling others to him."