bits from bob....

Bells and Steeples and Church

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Whoever heard of a first-century church with a bell or a steeple? No one! The church did not assemble in specialized buildings and dedicated sacred spaces. The common practice was to assemble in homes, and at times in public spaces. So where did the bells and steeples come from?

I spend a lot of time in Latin America. In the cities of Latin America, one hears the bells. One cannot help but notice the bells. The church bells ring regularly, constantly, almost incessantly (or so it seems at times). Bells announce activities. Bells remind the hearers to come to church. The church down the street from our house when I was growing up had a bell tower; it rang the bell every Sunday at 9:45 A.M. to remind people that church was about to begin. When the church is isolated from the normal social patterns of the society, people must be reminded about church.

Originally, steeples provided housing for the bells. Now churches have bells without steeples. Many churches have steeples without bells. Why? On the other hand, some churches wouldn't be caught dead with a steeple. Why?
Steeples have a long history. The further removed the church becomes from the center of society, the more necessary the steeple. Let me observe some ways in which steeples make a positive contribution.

In our society, both the bells and the steeples have largely lost their meaning. They are often secularized. That would be of little consequence were it not for the fact that the church has often lost its meaning, sense of direction, and awareness of God's purpose in the same process.

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Last updated March 23, 2014