Certain things from my childhood days, beyond the friends and the escapades of growing up remain etched in my mind. One of the haunting memories is the peel of bells. It seemed that no matter where I was it was only a matter of time before I would hear their toll echoing across the countryside. They offered a primordial call to an ordered discipline of prayer and devotion as the day was transformed from the business of doing to the stillness of being in relation to the Almighty. Especially significant on the Sabbath, I was drawn to ring them, to learn of their intricacies, to feel the rope between my palms and to hear the clapper hammer its note home.
I remember the day when I thought my dream was to come true. My Father had been posted to a new military base and we were leaving the congregation. It was the perfect send off for a little boy. As the priest stood beside the car saying his farewells to the family, he put his arm on my shoulder and pointing to the steeple said, “It is to bad that you are moving for next year you would have been old enough to ring the bells.” Crushed, I turned away with a grieving heart and more than a few tears.
Though the years passed, I carried the hurt of that moment deep inside. Upon my own ordination, I vowed with the best of intent to never prohibit anyone from ringing the church bells. Recognizing that I may be breaking an age-old order of the “ Carillon and Bell Ringers Society”, I prefer to do so than to shatter a little one’s heart.
Not so long ago I found myself looking up at the infamous steeple and at the un-rung bells of my youth. I entered St. Jude’s and spoke with the receptionist who in turn spoke to the curate. He emerged with the keys to the belfry and said, “Mr. Dean, let me right a wrong.” Forty years late, I rang those bells to my heart’s content conscious of our Savior’s words “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”