As Sister Sarah in Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls” knows, bells should be rung.   Now we can hear our bell once again.

Today’s parish hall incorporates a good portion of the original church including the bell tower that faces East Chestnut Hill Avenue.  If you have ever looked up, you’ve noticed a bell frozen in space.   The notion of restoring the bell took root during the parish hall renovation.  Investigations at the time turned up some interesting facts.

The oral history often states that this bell was rung at the end of the Civil War to commemorate the end of hostilities between the North and the South.  An inspirational and romantic tale to be sure, but, like most cherished family stories, it is completely untrue.  (Great uncle George didn’t leave the Continent to find a new empire in America.  He was actually on the lam from creditors.)  Of course, there was a bell in the original church tower, it’s plainly visible in early photographs, it just wasn’t this bell.

Our bell was cast in 1921 by the McShane Foundry in Baltimore, MD.  What happened to the original bell and why we have this one is a mystery with an answer likely buried in the archives.  I can guess, however, that this bell was installed as part of the 1923 renovation of the original church. It was during that time that the parish hall as we know it today took form.  Once the parish hall was completed, services were moved there while the second church was demolished, and our current sanctuary was built.    By 1928 the campus looked mostly like what we know today.

On Monday 20 March, the restoration crew came to campus to begin the work.  The old wheel and yoke were removed, and the bell was lowered onto a platform in the tower.  The crews fabricated new parts off-site.  The bell itself was restored in place.  The new mechanism was reinstalled, and the bell hoisted into place with new rope. It is ready for use once again.

The work is funded from memorial contributions that have been given to the church over the years.  Memorial gifts that are undirected, go into this fund, and are used from time to time for appropriate projects.  This restoration speaks to the past, present, and future of our parish and the ongoing community that is St. Paul’s. It will be a pleasure to hear it.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each 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 thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

“Meditation XVII”,1642

John Donne