The glut of holidays at the end of December had us ringing our church bell with regularity. Now that is it operational again, we welcome opportunities to use it.
We try to be respectful. It’s a bell in a former church, after all.
So far, no one has complained. At least to our faces.
We’ve been ringing to the bell once or twice or letting our guests do so whenever we have a tour of the church, which occurs with some regularity, maybe once a week. People are curious, and in some cases, our various contractors have enjoyed showing off their work here. So when we walk through the second floor, I will invariably yank on the bell pull to show off the unique feature of our home.
But for winter solstice–the shortest day of the year marking the beginning of winter–we ran the bell twelve times at sunset: 4:23 p.m. on December 21.
My birthday was December 23, so I rang it six times at noon (one for each decade and partial decade of my lifetime). We discussed ringing it once for every year, but that certainly would have ticked off the neighbors! (My father, who helps at funeral services with his local funeral home, also objected to ringing it once for every year because that’s what some churches do at funerals; since I’m not dead yet, we didn’t want to commemorate that).
Of course, we felt compelled to ring our bell on Christmas Eve (6 p.m.) and Christmas Day (9 a.m.), so we did then, too.
Our belfry was quiet for a few days until New Year’s Eve. If ever there were an appropriate time to ring our bell at midnight, this was it! I sort of rang a church bell one other time on New Year’s Eve. My priest threw a “Y2K be damned!” party on December 31, 1999, and he let me and my then-husband ring the bell at midnight. Only the bells on the cathedral were electronic and operated by pushing buttons (still, that was exciting if only because January 1, 2000 arrived without any fanfare beyond midnight bells).
Tyler and I planned a small get-together that disintegrated when one of our guests came down with the flu, so it was just Tyler and me celebrating the new year in the church. Then, as is his wont, he turned in early. So ringing the bell was up to me. My father joked with me earlier in the day that he wasn’t going to visit me in jail if I got arrested for disturbing the peace.
I stayed awake with reruns of “Friends.” At 11:55 p.m., I crept upstairs. It was a warm night (for December), and I opened the belfry window so I could hear the bell better.
Instead of ringing the bell a certain number of times, I decided to ring it for a certain amount of time–one minute.
About halfway through the minute, I could popping sounds I hadn’t heard on the other days we rang the bell. I thought for a moment I had broken it! But then I realized I was hearing fireworks through the open window. (See! I wasn’t the only awake in our little town. Whew!)
When I was done, I looked through the belfry window at the now quiet scene below. No police cruisers had assembled.
Someone down the street yelled “Happy New Year! And thanks Methodist Church bell ringer!” I was stunned–and thrilled–that I had an audience. So I yelled “You’re welcome!” And they yelled “That was awesome!”
It was awesome, in the original meaning of the word: filled with awe. Not everyone gets to ring a real church bell at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I literally rang in the new year! I closed the window, turned off all the lights and sneaked into bed beside my husband, who was now wide awake. “Happy new year!” we wished each other.
I have no plans to ring the bell for any upcoming holidays (Tyler’s birthday isn’t until August). If you hear it ring, it’s because we have guests, and I’m showing off.