We lived in Switzerland for 2½ years, where I studied for my doctorate at the University of Bern. We lived in Thun, a city by a lake. We decided to come back to New Zealand, where I would complete my studies at St John’s College in Auckland. New Zealand is a beautiful country, but so is Switzerland and it was hard to leave. At the time I wrote a blog post on the things I will miss about Switzerland. The things I listed were mountains with their lakes and rivers, railways and public transport, old heritage buildings, cheese and chocolate, and church bells.
Well, I shouldn’t have worried so much about the church bells. I have now been in two parishes with sets of bells. Just as the churches in Switzerland, St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Cambridge had simple hung bells, while St Paul’s has full-circle bells.
When I grew up in Germany, church bells were just something I took for granted. I did not really miss them once we moved to New Zealand. But when I studied in South America and heard them again, the sound of bells struck a deep chord with me. I then realized that I had missed something in New Zealand.
I don’t think that bells are a necessary part of church, but they are a beautiful tradition. They bring a melodious rhythm and music to life and call us to prayer and contemplation. Here in Papanui, they call everyone to come and see what is happening in that ornate building in a busy city. I hope that when people come they will find peace in a place where the prayers of generations have seeped into the walls, that they will find a welcome from people who care, that they will find the Word of God preached regularly, and that they will find signs pointing to the Saviour of the world. I am grateful that St Paul’s has bells and people who ring them faithfully each week. I particularly like to listen to them on a quiet Wednesday night as the bell ringers practice for the Sunday peal. Even that practice brings to mind the presence of this church in the community.
I want to thank the bell ringers for keeping that tradition going and in particular for the Quarter Peal after the Service last Sunday. I appreciated it.