One of our churches still has a bell.
It’s one of those very old, very heavy bells that you are more likely to see hanging outside a CFA Fire Station than a church these days.
There was once a time when bells were everywhere; church bells ringing on a Sunday morning, the fire station bell ringing to call the volunteers to action, the school bell ringing to bring the children in from the playground.
Nowadays sirens, pagers and SMS messages alert the firefighters, the school bell has been replaced by an electronic beep, and the church bells are silent.
Well the church bells are mostly silent; after church on a Sunday morning a couple of the young’uns like to climb up the rusting metal tower and give the clapper a tug (yes, that’s what that dangly bit is called).
And when they do, the clang reverberates and shocks the senses.
It seems so loud as to be scandalous as it fills the quiet country air.
Singer Nick Cave has an interesting take on bells and the big events in our lives.
In an interview following the death of his 15-year-old son, he revealed his struggle to write and reconnect with the world after the tragedy.
His son fell from a cliff in 2015 after experimenting with LSD.
He said, ‘‘I feel that the events in our lives are like a series of bells being struck and the vibrations spread outwards, affecting everything, our present, and our futures, of course, but our past as well. Everything is changing and vibrating and in flux.’’
The bell rings and every thing is changed.
Our future, our past, but that of those around us.
I can think of events like that in my life and I’ve no doubt that you can, too.
Events that seemed to ring out in every direction drowning out all the other sounds.
The bad things (ding); divorce, tragic deaths, suicide, criminal conviction, major illness or accident, unemployment.
But even the good things (dong); falling in love, marriage, the birth of a child.
And then there are all those things that we don’t know how to classify, but reverberate and shake us; career changes, moving house and community, children leaving home, retirement.
Perhaps some of the most famous lines about bells are those written by John Donne (1572-1631), especially since they were used in the 20th century by Ernest Hemingway for the title of his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls or if you are younger the title of a song by Metallica.
Donne had been very ill.
While lying in his bed at home, recounted that he had heard the tolling of the funeral bell in the neighbouring church day after day.
Thinking himself near death, he imagined himself like these dead, passing from this life into the next.
‘‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.’’
Christians believe that all humanity is connected in the Body of Christ, and all are equal before God.
As the apostle Paul puts it: ‘‘For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body’’ and ‘‘If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.’’
So rings the bell; share the big events of your life with others.
Hear the bell ring and reverberate through you when others ring it.
We are in this together and God is with us.
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.
— Brian Spencer, Minister, Tatura Uniting Church