I have been the priest of a small, rural parish for several years now. Our church is a modest and modern building which sits well in its village surroundings. It is the sort of place where you would never dream of planting a church today. But because of the conversion of the 8th Earl of Denbigh, in the 1850s the parish was endowed and flourished.

When the new church was built in the 1990s a small bellcote was erected but left empty. For a long time I have felt that it was crying out for some bells to call the faithful to Mass, ring the Angelus and be a gentle reminder of God’s Kingdom and his presence in our community. I also had the romantic notion of the bells ringing across the village and surrounding countryside after many years’ absence.

This desire was recently realised following a casual suggestion during the notices at Mass that it would be a good idea for the parish to have bells. I did not expect such enthusiasm from the congregation. Within a few weeks we had covered the cost of a digital system with speakers (not real bells, sadly), which would allow us to accompany our pattern of prayer with gentle tolls from the bellcote.

We now ring the bell five minutes before Mass and at other times during the day. A hymn even plays out each day as the children from the local primary school are collected by their parents. Last week I was walking by at half past three and a couple of children were skipping home to the hymn “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus”.

It may seem to some that fitting church bells today is unnecessary and an extravagance rather than a necessity. However, bells can be part of our evangelisation and witness as Christian communities.

Bells are a way of gently reminding people in the local area of the church’s presence. When rung for times of worship, they send out the message that the church is alive and active.

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