Church bells ringin’ again
By Lindsay Peyton
The bells in the steeple at FUMC Marshall had been silent for more than a decade. When suddenly chimes sounded out from the downtown church, residents stopped in their tracks. “This was our surprise,” Lead Pastor David Luckert said. “All of the sudden people wanted to know what was going on.”
An electronic carillon was installed atop the historic sanctuary, which dates to 1861, and loudspeakers projected the sound around Marshall. The system was ready to go, just in time for Veteran’s Day.
Luckert explained that to celebrate the holiday all of the churches were planning to chime together at 11 a.m. “When they called us, I said, ‘It’s funny you asked,’” he recalled.
The church was now able to join in – and afterwards, FUMC Marshall played several patriotic pieces. “We closed with TAPS,” Luckert added. “It was a beautiful day.”
When the pastor informed his parish that the bells would ring for Veteran’s Day, they responded with cheers. “They erupted with applause and smiles,” Luckert recalled. “People are proud of their community and proud of their churches.”
Bringing cheer downtown, with hourly chiming and regular music feels like a victory, especially coming out of the dark days of the pandemic, Luckert said. “Everyone has felt like their hands were tied for so long,” he said. “Finally, we’re getting to do some things that are community oriented.”
Luckert was appointed to serve the congregation about a year and a half ago. At the time, there were no bells coming from the steeple. “Nothing was operational,” he said. “Nothing was working.”
FUMC Marshall used to have metal bells, until the bell tower was remodeled in the 1940s. The church then used electronic carillon systems, after congregants gifted a set in 1958. “It was huge,” Luckert said. “And it was probably top of the line when it came out.”
The system was upgraded in the 1970s and in the early 1990s. Then, a lightning strike rendered it inoperable. “It was one of those things that you can’t find anyone to repair – and even if you could, it would cost more to fix than replace,” Luckert explained.
The church began planning to install a new system, and there were several other repairs on the list in the 160-year old sanctuary. “A couple of years ago, the congregation started looking at updating projects,” Luckert said. “Then, the pandemic hit.”
Around the same time, there was a change in pastoral leadership. “It was like, let’s just wait,” Luckert said. “Everything got put on hold.”
It didn’t take long, however, for the carillon project to get picked back up. “We had people who were really excited about getting those working again,” Luckert explained.
Chief among them was longtime member George Huffman, who not only helped with the funding but also the installation. “He is a retired engineer, and he was right there with the electrician,” Luckert said. “George understands it all, and he’s passionate about it. He loved putting the puzzle together.”
Christmas hymns ring
Now, Christmas hymns sound from the church each day at noon. There are hundreds of songs in the package that can be programmed for the rest of the year. “When you hear it, it’s just a feel good moment,” Luckert said.
FUMC Marshall also added lights to the steeple, as well as to a large stained glass window that faces out into the community. “It was just dark before,” Luckert said.
The church’s illuminated stained glass and the church bells ringing beckon congregants to worship on Sundays. And the church has a more visible – and audible – presence in Marshall
“We’re supposed to be a light in the community,” Luckert said. “And this is one way to do that, to let our presence be known.”