“Built on a rock the church shall stand even when steeples are falling; Crumbled have spires in ev’ry land, bells still are chiming and calling. Calling the young and old to rest, calling the souls of those distressed, longing for life everlasting.”
Outside of Northfield, there is a little country parish called Valley Grove where some of the first Norwegian Lutheran immigrants settled when they came to Minnesota. They built a limestone church atop he hill to be their place of worship. A small bell was placed into the belfry to call them to worship services. The immigrants worked hard to till the land and their children provided the labor. When the families outgrew the stone church, they built a new white clapboard church directly across the way from the original building. The two church doors were erected to face each other. The former stone church became the fellowship hall for the growing congregation at Valley Grove. And the church bell which was used to call the community to worship,
to announce joyous occasions and to toll the years of life in mourning, was transferred from one church tower to the other. Over the past century, the wooden pews in the church which were once filled with the farming community grew empty. The congregation closed its doors in the 1970’s, but the church bell of Valley Grove was never silenced. The two churches still stand as sentinels towering over the picturesque, rolling valley, and church bell continues to honor the joyous transitions of life and to toll the passing of the dead.
Church bells have been a part of Christian worship since 400 AD. Over the centuries, even the ringing and pealing of bells became more complex as sets of bells were placed into towers. Although there are new ways to call people to worship, bells continue to play an esthetic role in the life of the Christian community. In the last 20 years, several Twin Cities churches have added bells to their empty tower spaces. St. Mark’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s Basilica received bells as gifts, and Central Lutheran Church erected its new bell tower 75 years after the completion of the sanctuary.
Lake of the Isles Lutheran Church has a wonderful commanding spire which could accommodate a larger, more resonant bell. This All Saint’s Sunday onNovember 2nd, I invite you to consider a memorial gift to the LOTI Endowment Fund to help purchase a newly commissioned bronze bell for Lake of the Isles. A bronze bell weighing nearly 500 pounds, a state of the art mechanism for ringing, and installation is estimated to cost $15,000. The Endowment Fund will match this year’s All Saints Sunday gifts.
Consider the places that have been dear to you, and the people who have made a special mark on you, and honor their memory with your gift. And let the bell at Lake of the Isles continue to call “the young and old to rest.”
Peace, Pastor Arden Haug