The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The bell-ringer

I have come to witness peace on many different levels

I have come to witness peace on many different levels here in Geneva, Switzerland.

On Friday I discovered the peace that comes from the vast, complex halls of the U.N. building. Peace that is spoken of—hoped for—time and time again in the lectures, debates and pages upon pages of documents. Peace that is made when countries come together at a neutral location to discuss the common concerns of humanity, everything from human rights to environmental concerns. Peace that is made by leaders of government and nongovernmental organizations.

Then tonight I took a walk after dinner. I ventured toward a park that is running an exhibition of photographs taken at the most beautiful corners of the earth. As I entered the park, I heard the sound of a bell. Bells are heard throughout this city so at first I thought nothing of it, thinking it the mere bell of a tram or bicycle. Then it sounded again. Not immediately, but after a pause of roughly 30 seconds.

There to my right, under the shadows of the night, was the silhouette of the person who was ringing the bell. I continued viewing the photographs while the silhouette persisted in ringing the bell at the marked pace of every 30 seconds.

When I had enough of looking at the photos, I made my way toward the large gate entrance and noticed out of the corner of my eye that familiar silhouette. It was him, the bell-ringer, dressed in a red pullover sweater, with neatly combed hair and roughly my age. He was holding a small shoebox that contained sheets of paper, a few folded-up posters and the bell he had been ringing. I approached him somewhat nervously, afraid that I might disturb him, but he appeared to be preparing to leave.

Thinking of the language barrier that often excludes me from communicating in this city, I asked him (in French) if he spoke English. “Yes,” came the reply. I was somewhat excited because I had an urgent question: “Why were you ringing the bell?”

The man told me of the Iraqi people who have been killed as a result of the invasions in their homeland. He told me of the thousands, many innocent women and children, whom he believed to have been killed out of hate, out of fear. And now he, joining others worldwide, had taken up the task on this night to ring a bell 1,000 times for each of the lives that were lost.

I met a bell-ringer tonight—a fellow creature upon God’s magnificent earth. He wasn’t busy writing documents or shaking hands. Rather he made a quiet, yet vibrant sound. One tiny little note that barely moved upon the wind through the park. One tiny little note in carefully orchestrated meter, 30-second time. And he, although ringing in this park alone, was joined with a host of ringers in other countries and cities.

Together their notes blended to create a harmony that only God could hear—a harmony that I could only imagine. And their song was a song of peace.

This week's front page features:

Paving the way out of poverty: ELCA synods, social services and churches offer practical help and hope in Iowa. (Image at right.)

The world in her chair: Fargo dentist cares for refugees.

Graphic Gospel: The Gospel of Mark in comic-book form.

Making space: You’ll find openness gives you room to grow.

Also: Living ritual: In basketball & worship, don’t miss the routine.

Also: Methodists hope to join Lutheran-Roman Catholic declaration.

Breaking news: Grand Canyon Synod bishop resigns over sexual misconduct.

Read these stories at our front page > >>

This week on our blog:

Andrea Pohlmann blogs about investigations into charitable organizations and how the ELCA World Hunger Appeal practices financial transparency.

Amber Leberman blogs about the Lutheran connection to North American tiddlywinks competitions.

Elizabeth Hunter blogs about a funny story that involves the annual report forms congregations file with the ELCA.

Sonia Solomonson (right) writes about gender and leadership styles.

Check out our blog (and leave a comment) > >>

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Last chance to ask us: "Where are they now?"

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Send your requests by 5 p.m. today, Jan. 31.

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