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Money for old rope?

| Simon Bale | Vicar's Blog
This is the text of the "Sunday Reflection" delivered by Revd Simon on Radio Somerset, 30th April, 2023.

At around 6.30 this evening in North Curry Parish Church the Bishop of Bath and Wells will be saying prayers over a piece of old rope. It just so happens that until last year that rope was attached to a two hundred year old Bell that rang to celebrate the victory at Waterloo in 1815. It is a symbol, this rope. It represents the newly recast bells in the tower which have cost £150,000. This money has been used to replace the old bell frame and to recast the old bells into the new ones that will be dedicated. The rope symbolises the bells above us in the tower. I am very excited about all this. I am the vicar at North Curry and having the new bells rededicated in this way by Bishop Michael is a definite high point for the church community and me.

There are two questions that are going around in my head, however.

First, is it important to have bells in churches? Second, Is it OK to spend such a large amount on them?

First of all, of course it’s not important always to have bells in churches. Many churches either have none or never ring those they have and they get along fine as communities of believers and worshippers. We all have watches now and don’t need to hear the bells in order that we know its time to go and pray. Even so, after the new bells rang their test rings this week, it is clear that they are a reminder to everyone in the village and fields that there is a church. Many of people have spoken to me of their joy at hearing the new bells. It is a call to the people that “God is here”.

Bells fulfil a purpose beyond the “mere” sounding of the hours or even of the reminder to come to church. Church bells remind us of the presence in our world of the Good News of God. They are an alarm call of the need to consider how we live and how we can specifically live the life of Christ. When the church bells ring they sound chimes of freedom and of refuge, for those without a voice. Church Bells are a reminder of God in our lives.

But the second question: are they worth £150,000? That’s actually more complex.

For sure, £150,000 would go a long way to funding many social care programmes. It could feed hundreds for months. And I am all for raising funds to do so. But is this comparing apples with oranges? All of the money for the bells has been raised through either personal donations or from funds specifically dedicated to bell refurbishment or church maintenance. I am confident that the same people who have given of their personal funds towards the bells are good, kind and concerned individuals who will also be giving to support those who struggle in their lives.

£150,000 is fifteen reasonably priced new cars. It is a fairly reasonable holiday for maybe 150 people. We all spend our own money in many different ways, and we can analyse and always find a better way (i.e. a more just, caring way) to spend all the income each of us might have. So, my answer is both yes and no. A cop out? Probably.

What is your answer? Is it money well spent or money for old rope?