Telling People You Believe in Something

When my husband and I arrived at our first student appointment in southern Indiana in the fall of 1978, this church had just been rebuilt after a devastating tornado that had destroyed many homes and businesses. 

The new church was something of a “pre-fab”, but it was adequate for the small congregation of people who lived on this hill, and it was totally new.

But Ray, a church member, was not at all satisfied until he got the bell back.  When the tornado hit on that fateful day in April, the church bell that hung in the church steeple for over a hundred years went flying across the countryside and landed in a field.  After the tornado was over, the church bell was recovered and brought back to the church. The new church did not have a steeple that could hold that heavy brass bell, and Ray wanted the bell to be rung again.

He collected money for several years and the church built a stand-alone bell tower next to the new church so that once again the bell could be heard on Sunday morning.  By the time we left that appointment, the bell tower was built and dedicated. It was Ray’s happiest day since the tornado.

For Ray it was more than a bell calling people to church. He said “when you ring a bell you are telling people that you believe in something.”

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Truly our churches believe in something!  We believe in The Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. We ring our bells calling people to worship and we call people to faith in Christ because we believe in this great truth and we serve God in the strength of that faith.

This week we as a nation are called to ring bells on Wednesday, August 28th at 3 pm. Why?

To remember 50 years since the March on Washington during the Civil Rights movement when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his great “I Have a Dream” sermon that he delivered to thousands of people at 3 pm.  

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He believed in something.  Dr. King believed that equal rights for all people in the United States could become a reality.  In the 50 years since that day many important strides have been made toward this dream of equality.  So we should ring our bells to celebrate this great movement in our society.  But we should also ring a bell tomorrow to tell people that we believe in something else: that the work is not yet done and that there are still more barriers to equal rights that are yet to be overcome in our country and in this world.  Ring a bell to say that you believe in Dr. King’s dream and that you will work to see his dream come to full fruition wherever it is that you live and work and worship.

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Peggy A. Johnson, Bishop

The United Methodist Church
The Philadelphia Area Episcopal Office
(Eastern Pennsylvania and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences)

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