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Reporter’s Perspective

'Despair is not going to get us': Church bells offer a small reminder of hope

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It’s been a very weird week at my house. First, my wife, a third-grade teacher, stayed home Tuesday, the first day of a state-mandated shut down because of COVID-19. That same day, I worked the first election of my career where I wasn’t in the newsroom, also because of the virus.

We’ve done our best to maintain a normal schedule — as normal as can be. It’s not been the easiest week, as every hour it seems more bad — or at the very least, stressful — news comes to us. I know we aren't alone in this.

I’ve always enjoyed living in a town that still has a noon whistle — a callback to its farming and manufacturing roots. But recently there’s been a return of another small-town hallmark: church bells.

Nothing in Steeleville is far apart, so when St. Mark’s Lutheran Church sounded its bells earlier this week I, like I imagine most people in town, took note. Every now and then, we’d hear wedding bells, or maybe bells calling congregants to service, but nothing hourly.

Starting this week, the church has announced the hour with a heartening tone and at noon has even played songs on its bells, some hymns, some patriotic.

The Rev. Mark Harriss said the bells making their comeback at the same time many were staying home because of the coronavirus was mostly a coincidence. But a good one.

“Somebody graciously donated this system recently,” Harriss said Friday. Though he would have put the new system in anyway, Harriss said he rushed putting it in over the weekend. He said it is something small that “gives you something to keep up your spirits.”

Harris said he hopes the bells remind people that church is not just a place, but a group of people, a community. He said he hopes that the bells are a reminder for people that “despair is not going to get us.”

Harris said he was working on a sermon and a worship service of sorts to post to YouTube over the weekend, since gatherings greater than 10 are banned at the state level, leaving physical churches empty. But, with that, he said “the bells are just a reminder of calling you to worship” no matter where you are.

We haven’t quite reached despair here, save when we run out of vital snacks our kids are demanding. But I can say that the sound of the bells are a quiet reminder of better times from the past and those to come in the future.

isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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