By: Marc Ridenour (Vol 10)
Do you know what is AWESOME?
A 1500 pound, A-flat, antique brass bell, with a diameter of 37” and a height of 29” sitting in the entryway of our downtown church.
YES! The bell is back from Cincinnati – delivered by FedEx, no less! The delivery driver said that in over 40 years of working for FedEx he had NEVER delivered a bell. “Lots of kitchen sinks,” he quipped, “but no bells.”
The original plans was to unload it on Monday and install it on Wednesday the 30th however, due to the faux winter storm advisories, we postponed the installation. It will be rescheduled for the next time the technician is in our area. If you happened to witness the removal of the bell on 9-13-19, you will remember an old, painted black relic with a wooden wagon wheel as a pulley for the rope. Now, it has been restored to its original brass finish and fitted with all new supporting hardware.
KCTV5 shares our Historic Bell Story, Check it out click here: https://www.kctv5.com/news/local_news/lawrence-church-s-historic-bell-ready-to-ring-again/video_ebd85b94-850e-5764-8391-314a640d8bc2.html
This bell was originally cast in 1865 at the Jones and Company Bell Foundry in Troy, New York. It was installed at our previous downtown building at 10th and Massachusetts, known as the Brick Church. That building was started in 1864, completed in 1865, sold to J.B. Watkins in 1890 for $5,000, and torn down in 1909 for the construction of the Masonic Temple. Our bell was moved into its present perch in the summer of 1890, during the construction of “the grandest of all churches built west of the Mississippi.” It is unclear HOW it was moved, or hoisted up three stories.
We will be using a crane, and not the two winged kind.
So, why restore the bell, and why now? Although it still rang every Sunday, our beloved bell was in bad shape. The supporting structure and swinging mechanism was worn out. It had been braced up, patched and repaired over the past 50+ years, but was in need of a complete overhaul. We identified the issues with the bell as part of the tower renovation project, but were unable to pursue it due to financial constraints. It was unclear how much the larger items like stone restoration would cost so we figured structure first, and then the bling.
Determined to find a way, I applied to fund it through a grant request from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council Program. The HCC was created in 2011 to provide grants to historic properties and sites that promote the conservation of our cultural and natural heritage. Their hope is to honor our past, enrich our present, and inspire our future. Previously, churches had not been on the list of award recipients, but we asked, “Why not a church?” The Methodists had helped establish Lawrence. Their presence contributed to the success of our town in providing ministry, community support, leadership, and a spiritual foundation, much like we still do today. The Council, in collaboration with the Douglas County Commissioners, awarded $28,930.00 to completely pay for the Verdin Bell Company to restore our beloved bell. The only expense to us will be the cost of the crane to reinstall it, which will be around $1,300 +/- .
The Bible doesn’t require the ringing of church bells, but does encourage the faithful to, “make a joyful noise.” (Psalm 100). Since the fifth century, Christian churches have been ringing bells for spiritual and practical purposes. Our Church bell rings as a call to worship, an announcement of important events like weddings, war endings, or championship victories, and as a constant reminder of God’s presence in our daily lives.
Stop by and see our restored bell. Touch it. Marvel at the beauty and craftsmanship of the old and new. It won’t ring quite yet because it is sitting on a pallet, but I am working on a way to lift it up enough for a test ring or two.
Feel free to donate to the crane fund (not the two winged kind).
Blessings to all,