Big Ben is a British icon that strikes out on each and every hour; 6am the morning call to start the day, at 12 noon it reminds us that lunch time is close by, at 6pm the evening begins, at 12 midnight it’s time for sleep.
I have some friends who belong to a local hand bell ringing group. They practise sacred and popular music with each individual using the hand bell in sync with others so as to make a beautiful collective sound with its own meaning and melody. In a wider sense bell ringing is known as campanology.
There are numerous occasions when bells are rung to invoke a particular instruction and response. At the interval of a concert or theatre, a bell will strike for people to return to their seats for the concluding session. At school and places of education a bell may ring when the day or lesson commences and when the lecture and study time has ended.
At a local public house a bell will ring for ‘last orders’ to ensure everyone has the chance to enjoy another drink. One of the most common bells is the ‘doorbell’ which we press to get people’s attention and enter their dwelling. A ‘lift bell’ sounds when it arrives at its destination and then an ‘alarm bell’ rings to ward off intruders.
Early Christian believers used small bells to call people to worship. Later on bells were hung in a solid ‘bell tower’ to convey church activities, the time of day and various local and national events. The church bells will ring in different forms. A peal of bells with a ‘ding dong‘ sound may represent a joyous occasion such as a wedding.
A solitary ‘chime’ is rung when confirming the name of a child, at baptism, confirmation and the reading of the Lord’s Prayer. A ‘sanctus‘ bell may be used in a service of Holy Communion. On each occasion people hearing the bells are reminded of a Holy presence descending upon a worshipping community.
Over the centuries the church bells have represented a place of safety for those facing social injustice. Quasimodo and Esmeralda found ‘Sanctuary’ in Victor Hugo’s novel ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.’ (1831)
A single ‘Toll‘ (passing bell, death knell or muffled peal) is rung to proclaim the fact that a loved member of community has died. At a funeral it may be tolled once or the equivalent of a person’s age (eg: 34yrs = 34 times) or three times, then a pause, then four times.
Edgar Allan Poe an American poet wrote a famous poem ‘The Bells’ At the time he was looking after his dying wife Virginia, with the support of a carer called Marie and was lacking inspiration. In the background Marie heard the bells of Fordham university New York, USA and said to him why don’t you write about the bells which he did as read by Tom O’Bedllam
In the first stanza the Silver bells ‘jingle and tinkle.’ Then the Golden bells are ‘mellow and full of delight.’ But the Brazen bells are full of ‘terror and turbulence.’ In the silence of the night the Iron bells fill us with fright as they ‘moan and groan.’
Bells call out to us for a specific response. I wonder what is calling out to you today both internally and externally. You may be putting off a desire to fulfil a particular calling in life such as being a musician, medic, engineer or business person. What are the alarm bells that hold you back from fulfilling such a desire and dream? Just as the bell sounds in different ways such as a ‘ding dong,‘ ‘chime‘ or ‘toll,’ there are different times and seasons for us to hold back and then move forward.
Here we can be reminded yet again of the words found in Ecclesiastes 3 and made into a popular song by The Byrd’s, Turn. Turn. Turn. There is a time to stop and a time to start. A time to be happy and a time to be sad. A time of peace and a time for trouble.
Give yourself time to review your goals for the rest of this year. What things have you completed very successfully? What areas do you need to improve on? What requires further insight and recognition?
Pink Floyd on the album ‘Dark side of the moon’ gave a nod to Poe’s poem in the song ‘Time.’
So the Bells are calling, how are you responding? It’s your opportunity to create something wonderful in your own time and unique way. Go for it.
(This blog is a ‘repost’ from 2 September 2015.) I have used it recently as a ‘personal and group devotional’ and really enjoyed it and felt it was good to use again)
For further reading hit the links below for the second edition of my book Blog 51 (October 2020) in black and white or colour
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