For bells are the voice of the church; They have tones that touch and search The hearts of young and old.–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
To Answer the Bell means “to meet a challenge with success.” The phrase alludes to a boxing match, as fighters come out of their respective corners to “answer the bell” that signals the start of each round.
In the years of 1892 & 1893, Rev. John Leberman led the young congregation of the Reformed Church of Louisville to finish construction on their new church building. Eventually this church would change their name to Paradise. It must have felt like they were constantly working on and completing projects in those days. One of those projects was the purchase of and placing of a church bell. Within just a few short months, they purchased the bell, placed it, then due to building improvements, moved it, and placed it where it is now. Nearly 130 years later, we find ourselves in a similar situation. We have completed a number of incredible projects within the walls of Paradise Church, but now we have a final grand project to turn our attention towards in the Bell Tower.
We have some choices to make concerning our Bell Tower. But this is not just a campaign to raise money for repairs. It is a campaign to drive us forward as a church.
For the past few weeks, I have immersed myself in the history of Paradise. Partly because I was curious about a picture that I found, but I was interested in the building, the bell itself and how all of this got here. The history of Paradise is one of pushing forward. Through the Civil War, World War I and World War II, the church pushed forward. Through numerous financial challenges, downturns and even the depression, the leadership of Paradise continued forward. Through quarrels and strife, the church continued to find its identity. In 1918, the Spanish Flu pandemic struck worldwide, and many died. The illness was so devastating that all church meetings and services were cancelled for four weeks during the epidemic. Sound familiar? Whether it is 1918 or 2020, Paradise Church continues forward.
· Beginning with Louis Merriot in 1863 being the first one baptized, we have seen hundreds baptized within our walls.
· Beginning with Jacob Kagey and Sarah Berlin in March of 1864, being the first couple married in the church, we have rung the bell joyously on countless wedding days giving birth to new families.
· Beginning with Barbara Derr, who was the first member to pass away, we have walked thousands of believers home.
We are not just repairing the Bell Tower; we are going to start ringing the bell again. Literally and symbolically. Paradise church is woven into the fabric of the community of Louisville, and we will not simply fade into the annals of history. We have more story to write. This church, which began as the Reformed Church of Louisville needs to again be reformed.
Our reforming process is this…We are going to Ring the Bell again and at the same time, Answer the Bell.
A Church Bell has many functions:
1. A Church Bell is a call to action. It often signaled the community to do something. To pay attention, to react.
2. A Church bell communicated the time. It reminded us of the actual time, but in many ways reminded us that time is short and for us to focus on what was important at certain moments. It’s time for work, for rest, for meals, for family, for worship, for weddings, funerals and for new days to begin. The bell forces us to remember, to pause, to mourn, to celebrate.
3. A Church Bell warned of danger. A storm, fire, or emergency
4. A Church Bell signaled when it was time for worship to begin. For those in the building it was a signal to begin or end the service, for those outside of the building, it reminded them that God is near.
At Paradise Church, we need to Answer the Bell. Our bell is reminding us that our time is limited, and we are called to do and be something. This summer, we are going to Answer the Bell.
I have asked the Paradise Building Team to continue their important work of maintaining and improving the building, but I have also asked them to take their talents outside of the building into the community. If our members have needs, then our building team can be a resource. If our neighbors have needs, then they should know they can call on us.
The Paradise Missions/ Evangelism Team along with the Worship/ Education is doing a number of projects. One of them launches on June 13th called “Stuff the Bus.” During VBS week and throughout the summer, we will be collecting school supplies for Louisville students in need.
The Missions Team is continued to help with food distribution at Grace UCC every Wednesday at 9:00 AM. You should come give that a try.
We are continuing efforts to support Ukrainian refugees. Throughout the summer we will be offering opportunities to help.
On the Worship & Education side, we are making efforts to revive our ministry to teens and constantly looking for volunteers in the children’s area. We could use your help.
On a personal side, I am asking each of you to answer on a personal level in a few ways.
1. Support the campaign. Whether you support Bob and his Bike Ride, Pastor David and his running or just the campaign in general… support the campaign.
2. Consider a mini campaign or fundraiser. Do something at your business, organize a small effort like a yard sale or bake sale. Get a small group together for a flash project. Put together a fun match project. Bob and I are not the only ones who run or ride bikes or do amazing things. If you want to lead a mini campaign, let us know and we can help you organize it.
3. Call someone who has not attended in a while. Tell them you are answering the bell by giving them a call, checking on them and inviting them to return.
4. Invite someone to attend this summer. Someone you know or someone you just met. And not just invite them, invite them to come with you, sit with you. They will be your guest.
5. Pass out an ARK card. Pass out 10 ARK cards. Some of you have forgotten these. Some of you have never passed one out. Tell someone that you are answering the bell by doing an Act of Kindness for them.