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Let the church bells ring, Hinesville

Guest column

POSTED: December 18, 2017 2:00 p.m.
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The First Presbyterian Church is at the corner of Memorial Drive and Highway 84 in Hinesville.

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Dear Hinesville community family: After more than 35 years of service, the church bells at First Presbyterian Church are in need of restoration and replacement. For centuries, bells have played a major role in our lives — giving voice to the church. It’s a tradition that runs deep and inspires the whole community. Our bells at First Presbyterian Church ring on Sunday mornings to call our Hinesville family to remember that God is in our midst and all are welcome at His table. This is the Day when we put aside everything else to turn our attention toward God. We dressed up, walked to church, attended Sunday School, and stayed for worship service. And it was good.

In 1972, Billy Miles purchased our original steeple bell system to honor his aunt, Laura Adel Shave, whom he dearly loved. They shared a deep love and appreciation for music as well as devotion to God and to family. Laura Adel and Billy understood the power of music in worship and church bells held a special fondness — not only because of the sound, but because of the silence that is in it — bringing joy and peace. They believed the voice of the bells direct our hearts toward God and prompt us to come gladly to church, there to experience the presence of Christ, listen to God’s word, offer our prayers, and both in joy and sorrow be friends to one another.

It would be wonderful to hear our bells singing loudly from the tower again! The Verdin Company has been producing and restoring bells since 1842. Restoration of our steeple bell system would allow us to celebrate life and liberty, call souls to prayer, chime in celebration, toll in reverence, ring in remembrance, and mark time. To date, we have already raised some funds through our congregational campaign — but we are in need of help to raise the remaining $ 9,484.

I’m reminded of a Thomas Merton quote where he says: The bells say "business does not matter right now, it’s time to pray." You can go knock on doors if you want to evangelize or you can stick flyers under windshield wipers — maybe people will throw those things away — maybe they’ll hide behind their couches when you come to their doors — but you can’t avoid the bells. They remind us that sometimes you have to drop everything, you’ve done your work, it’s time to pray.

The equipment that rings our bell system became fragile with age and was damaged beyond repair during Hurricane Matthew more than a year ago. Once the lines to the bell tower were repaired by a talented and brave sound technician, it was discovered that the bell control system was also not working — and unable to be repaired by Schulmerich Bells. After months of patience and numerous failed repair attempts, we were offered the temporary loan of an aged control system from a kind bellkeeper. He lives the belief that bells make a daily statement that the church is alive and well in the local community. Part of what we’re called to do as Christians is ring out good news of peace on earth and goodwill to all people. The singing of our bells does that. It’s beautiful - and there’s nothing else like it.

We are reaching out to our Hinesville community family to help restore the bells of First Presbyterian Church so that their voices will continue to inspire for generations to come! They call us to honor our past and set the tone for our future. Our bells do not merely say, "Be good, come to Church." They do not merely say, "Keep the Commandments" but above all, "Christ is risen, Christ is risen!" Our bells say, "Come with us, God is good, salvation is not hard, His love has made it easy!" And this, our message, has always been for everyone, for those who came and for those who did not come, for our song is as perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect and we pour our charity out upon all.

Your kind support can be made to:

First Presbyterian Church

Steeple Bell Campaign

320 East Memorial Drive

Hinesville, GA 31313

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