PEACE CHURCH: 25 YEARS OF BELLS

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Peace Church members Janet Off, Ruth Goings, and Amie Moser polish bells prior to a recent rehearsal.

Members of the Peace Church bell choir are, front row, left to right: Sue Gnagy, Helen Leavenworth, Susan Johnson, Kristina Miller, and Donna Anderson; back row, right to left: Michelle Moser, Hila Garms, Director Brittany Barnard, Laura Moser, Penni Leonard, and Sue Stott.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

 

The 25th anniversary of the Peace United Church of Christ bell ringers will be celebrated this weekend. In addition to a dinner gathering Saturday at Schera’s Restaurant in Elkader, there will be a special worship Sunday, September 17, beginning at 9 a.m. at the church. The current bell choir will play four numbers. The service is open to the general public.

More than 60 current and former bell ringers will attend the weekend festivities. Only the current ringers will perform at the Sunday service. Several former bell choir directors are expected to be there, too. They include original director Ruth Goings, Cheryl Schafer, Shirley Lindell, Tiffany Walters, Joan Strauss and current director Brittany Bernard.

The original three-octave bell set along with tables, table coverings and cases was purchased in 1992 with memorial money. The bells were handcrafted by the Schulmerich company, located in Pennsylvania, which is the oldest and largest hand bell company in the world. They are made of bronze, which is why the ringers always wear gloves when handling them. Like any expensive musical instrument, they need special care and maintenance.

Lance Bentley, the minister at that time, asked Ruth Goings to organize and direct the bell choir. Ruth accepted the challenge as a way to honor her mother who had always wanted to establish a bell choir at her own church in Nashua. “I wanted to help realize my mother’s dream by starting the Peace bell choir,” Ruth explained.

Originally, the church had two bell choirs with 11 members each, plus the director, for a total of 23 members. The choirs were named Alpha and Omega.  Joan Strauss has been the director since 2005.  Besides Ruth Goings, Shirley Lindell and Cheryl Schaefer have been former directors.  Currently, there is just one bell choir consisting of 13 regular members and their director.

In addition to their regular performances at Peace, the bell choir has performed at the Elkader Opera House and the Elkader Care Center. In the past, members also have attended bell conferences where they have joined hundreds of bell ringers from several states for three to four days of classes; performances by choirs, small groups and soloists from all over the country; and many rehearsals for a massed choir concert on the last day. 

The choir practices weekly from mid-August through May. Some members practice individually or in small groups between regular rehearsals, as well. Practice and performing together creates camaraderie among the ringers. “I feel such a bond with the other bell ringes,” Ruth told the Register in an earlier interview. “Some of us have rung together for 23 years!”

 
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