Today the church bells are ringing. It’s noon, and I can hear hymns pealing from the church tower nearby. Amazing Grace, This is My Father’s World, Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus. It sounds like the bell ringer is practicing. They are familiar tunes to me, but I wonder how many others would recognize them. Whenever the bells ring, I feel as if we are stepping back in time, when townspeople would receive daily encouragement from the church’s bells. Most people now are probably more annoyed than anything. But I love them. For a few minutes, the soundtrack to the neighbourhood is gospel joy. They don’t ring daily, and sometimes I think weeks go by between soundings. So I am always surprised when I hear them, and thrilled.
The first time I heard them in Georgetown was our first Christmas here in 2005. It was Christmas Eve, and we had just come home from our church’s service. I had never heard bells like that before, and I was so excited. Christmas carols rang out all evening – tidings of comfort and joy. I felt like it was really Christmas that night.
There is something uniquely inspiring about hearing the church’s music over the noise of everything else. Perhaps it’s my longing for the good old days, or appreciation for ancient forms of music. Or perhaps it is the realization that this glorious song will one day be heard in all the world. Today, they are a sacrament of the coming kingdom, when the music of grace will rule all our neighbourhoods.