Our church’s Bell Tower is now surrounded by scaffolding, as workmen have begun the repair / renewal project, which will continue for about a month. This is the part of our church structure that seems to symbolize who we are in the community. We have known for some time that the cross at the top of the tower was leaning and needed reinforcement, if not replacement. We decided that there were other parts of the tower that needed to be upgraded, so we hired a general contractor to do all the work at once.
The most important feature of our tower is the large bell, which was manufactured in 1886, according to the inscription embossed on its side. You can read about the bell’s history in this 2009 Messenger article: here. We’re blessed by its weekly call-to-worship ringing each Sunday morning at 11 am, which is faithfully done by Milo Crago.
Towers have been associated with worship as long as humans have felt spiritual instincts. In the Old Testament, the idol-worship of pagan nations was regularly associated with “high places” (Leviticus 26:30, Isaiah 16:12, 2 Kings 16:4, Jeremiah 32:35). The Tower of Babel, built in honor of human endeavor, is presented as the extreme in wrong-direction worship (Genesis 11). However, elevated land was also part of Israel’s worship of the One True God, as we see in the giving of the Law from the top of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) and the establishment of the Temple on Mount Moriah, the highest point in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 3:1). The “tower” idea is also behind some early symbols of faith, such as the brass serpent on a pole that could bring salvation from judgment (Numbers 21:8-9), and the pillar of twelve stones Joshua set up to symbolize God’s deliverance of Israel (Joshua 4:20).
Throughout history, structures reaching upward have been used to express faith in God in many religious traditions: including Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Actually, the highest religious tower in the world is currently the Lutheran Cathedral in Ulm Minster, Germany, at 530 feet. However, it will soon be overshadowed by the Hindu temple, Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir, in Uttar Pradesh, India, now under construction and due to be completed in 2023 (see video here). It will be 700 feet tall. ABC’s Bell Tower is a pigmy at 28 feet.
Why are towers such an important symbol of faith? Some Biblical themes give the answer. People are often “downcast” (Psalm 42:5,11; 43:5). They need to “lift up their eyes” (Isaiah 40:26). It also helps if they “lift up their hands” (Psalm 28:2). When they do this, they will also “lift up their souls” (Psalm 25:1). The symbolic religious tower is a big help in this “lifting up” process.
In many an American town, the tallest structure is the Bell Tower of its largest church. This is that community’s way of reminding themselves of their dependency on God and their need to thank him. Similarly, in Muslim cities all over the world, the tallest structure is the minaret tower from which a muezzin calls people to prayer five times a day.
For the past fifty years (since 1972) ABC’s Bell Tower has lifted downcast people’s eyes and souls to the God of their salvation. The cross at the top has testified to how far God reached down to make a connection with us. The Bell itself has expressed his personal invitation to everyone who hears its bright sound.
The repairs we’re making now are our way of guaranteeing that for the next fifty years and beyond this Gospel invitation keeps ringing through ABC’s congregation to the whole community around us.