South Church bells step in when Carmelite Monastery bells go offline

  • Bill and Nancy Brown ring the bells of South Church in Concord as Pam Young watches on Friday at the appointed time of 4 p.m. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The South Church belltower in downtown Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Bill and Nancy Brown ring the bells of South Church in Concord on Friday afternoon.

  • The Carmelite Monastery on Pleasant Street across the street from Concord Hospital on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Published: 6/29/2020 4:31:37 PM

People who have missed the 4 p.m. ringing of the bells at the Carmelite Monastery since they were silenced by mechanical failure and COVID-19 can take solace: The bells of South Church have taken up the cause.

“It has become a thing where 20 parishioners are involved. We hope it keeps going,” said Pam Young, who organizes the 4 p.m. bell-ringing at South Church, a block off Main Street on Pleasant Street.

Young lives near the monastery, which is located across from Concord Hospital, and says the ringing done as a call to pray had become an afternoon ritual.

“At 4 o’clock every day we’d hear the bells at the Carmelite Monastery. I’ve taken that moment, when hearing the bells, to pause, to be in the moment, to know that God’s with me, to have a bit of gratitude,” Young said.

One day earlier this year, she said, she noticed that she hadn’t heard them, so she emailed the sisters for details.

“They were running by an electric setup … and it stopped working,” said Sister Louise, one of seven nuns at the Concord monastery, which was opened in 1952 after the Carmelite religious order’s expansion from its site in Boston.

Before repairs could be made, Sister Louise said, the pandemic arrived and the monastery, which has limited interaction with the outside world, couldn’t allow in a repair crew.

Sister Louise said Young wasn’t the only person outside the monastery who missed hearing the bells.

“A lot of people told us that,” said Sister Louise. “We are anxious to have them fixed and ringing again.”

When Young found out about the delay getting the chimes fixed, she wondered whether the bells at South Church, a United Church of Christ congregation about a mile from the Carmelite Monastery, could fill the auditory gap.

“I asked Jed (Rev. Jared Rardin) and he said, ‘Sure, here are the keys,’ ” Young said.

So she began pulling on the bell rope – no mechanical aid at South Church – at 4 p.m. every afternoon. The bells are rung 21 times, matching the pattern of the Carmelite Monastery.

“At first I came by myself and then I realized my shoulders are hurting. It’s a hard rope to pull,” Young said. She recruited her husband, Oge Young, and as word spread more congregants started taking part.

“Weekends are a little tough. But we put out the word on the email list and say, ‘These days are open’ … and it gets done,”  Young said.

There’s plenty of hand sanitizer on site and old football gloves to protect tender palms.

Young says she has talked to other churches about joining the 4 p.m. ringing. She hopes that it will catch on as a city-wide sign of hope in busy but unsettled times.

“I think it’s going back to that moment of reflection. … I hope it’s a message that God’s with us – God or the spirit, or whatever people feel – that we can have a moment of peace, and we’re not alone,” she said.

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