This post is part of a series on the history of Peace Presbyterian Church as part of our month-long Centennial Celebration. Visit our Stories from the Past blog page or learn more about Celebration Sunday on October 6th.
I was born in 1867 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the Joseph Bernard Foundry. I am officially known as number 120NTH6ST, but I prefer to be called by my German name Die Glocke, or in English, The Bell. My bowl is about 24 inches in diameter, I stand about 28 inches high, and weigh about 2200 pounds; I am composed of 153 pounds of copper and 47 pounds of tin. This ratio of 13 parts copper to 4 parts tin was perfected by the Bernard Foundry and made their bells world famous for the quality and clarity of their sound.
Soon after I was born, I was shipped by rail and horse drawn wagon to my first home in the belfry of St. John’s Reformed Church in Astoria, Illinois, where I served for 52 years. In 1919, things began to change. I heard talk of a church in Flint Michigan, that needed a bell but didn’t have the money to buy a new one. It was with fear and sadness, but also a feeling of excitement that I was taken down from my belfry at St. John’s in the fall of that year and donated to the recently formed First Reformed Church in Flint.
In the fall of 1919, with ropes and pulleys they raised me to my beautiful new belfry home on the corner of Gillespie and Buick Streets. I was dedicated to your service and gave my first performance in Flint on new Year’s Day, 1920. I can still hear the compliments of that small congregation; it was one of the proudest and happiest days of my life. But more than the compliments, I remember the praise and thankfulness that was raised to the Lord and how privileged I felt to share that day with those wonderful people, my people.
While we were on that corner in Flint, we shared so many things. I remember sharing your sorrow as I tolled the passing of three sitting Presidents. I recall so clearly the afternoon of Sunday, December 7, 1941, when news reached us of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. One of my people climbed slowly to the balcony and began pulling my rope with tears in his eyes, and the sound of my ringing echoed those tears. But as deep as our sorrow was on the day, I remember the happiness we felt at the end of the war in September 1945 was even greater. My happiest and most rewarding memories are the simple, pleasant times we shared. Times of calling my people to worship, baptisms and weddings, and sad days as well.
When my people moved in 1969 and left me behind I could hardly believe it. I didn’t belong in that old belfry, my place was with my people. I was unused, separated from my loved ones. Then, in the summer of 1984 my owners offered to sell me, and you agreed. Praise the Lord. On Carpenter Road, my pedestal was never built and for the next four years I sat on the ground in the garden area until the building was sold and we moved out in January of 1989. Again my people loaded me on a pickup truck and took me to the home of Jim and Joanne Schlieger where I waited in their backyard for four more years until you could build a belfry for me.
Finally, on February 18, 1994, a crane raised me to my wonderful new home in our steeple, 75 years after I was first raised to my belfry on Gillespie Street. I have but one small request. Use me often. Let me announce the beginning of our services, our weddings and funerals, and our special days. Let newlyweds pull my rope together as a reminder to always pull together. You pick the days and the times, but please pull my rope gently and don’t turn me upside-down.
This story is an abridged form of a story originally written for the dedication of the bell at the 75th anniversary of First Reformed Church. The full version can be found in Honoring 75 Years of the First Reformed Church.