16th February – Stephen Campbell

Ring out, wild bells

One of the illuminating realities of Scripture, unless I have missed it, is that there is no mention of bells in any way recognisable as the bells we know today. The fall-back could be to look at Psalm 150, verse 5: “Praise Him with clanging cymbals.” But of course a cymbal is nothing like a bell, and we don’t clang anyway.

As the year moves into another Lent, and possibly no ringing during Holy Week, I for one have been reflecting on the importance of church bells as a sign of the presence of Almighty God. I know it could be said that the world is in a mess because nobody looks or listens for God these days, but even so, when you do look, how easy is it to see, or hear, the “otherness” of God?

The Church’s lectionary for the Sundays leading up to Lent includes the opening verses of the Gospel of John; “In the beginning was the word…” The point the Evangelist is making is that God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, always was, always is and always will be with us.

“The Lord is here, His Spirit is with us” – in everything. This seems to me well captured in the hymn that undertakers abbreviate as ‘ATB&B’: ‘All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.’

Back to bells! Psalm 150 declares: “Praise God according to His surpassing greatness.”

Ringing is an unsurpassed way of proclaiming God. We must never stop doing so. Even if bells are muffled so as not to annoy the neighbours, they can still ring out a message of hope in the presence of God in the world of God’s creation.

In the sadness of war and destruction, God is present. Watch and listen. Ring out, wild bells. Never stop.

Stephen Campbell