ASHLEY — Churches across the country have been forced to shut their doors due to the outbreak of COVID-19, with many transitioning to alternative platforms to continue their presence in the community.
For the Ashley United Methodist Church (UMC), located at 214 E. High St., that continued presence has meant one simple, yet ringing endorsement of Christ for all in the community to enjoy.
Every evening, at exactly 6 p.m., the bell atop the church rings out. The tradition began March 21, and thanks to a seven-man rotation, the church has kept the daily ringing going every day since. Each of the seven men in the rotation has been assigned a day of the week to ensure continuity and avoid any lapses.
The idea began with Kay Conklin, who has attended Ashley UMC now for 60 years. Conklin felt the bell ringing out each day would serve as a nice, enduring symbol throughout the crisis.
Depending on whose day it is to do the ringing, the bell may sound for a few minutes or even as many as 10 minutes; Conklin said there are a couple in the rotation who sometimes hit the 10-minute mark.
Church member Amy Ruggles said the church and its bell have a long history, although the bell was once out of commission for an extended period of time.
“Dedicated on May 16, 1891, the church and its bell have brought encouragement and connection to the Ashley community for generations, announcing worship services, prayer meetings, weddings, funerals, and important occurrences,” Ruggles said. “The ringing of the bell reminds people of God’s presence in their lives.”
The daily ringing has been well received by the community, and Ruggles said it has become “a favorite activity” of many folks in and around the village to listen and determine just how far the sounds of the bell can carry.
Conklin said she hopes the ringing of the bell each evening serves as the end of the workday for the community, signaling another day they have overcome amidst all the uncertainty during these trying times.
“As we deal with the coronavirus pandemic, our community and local churches are scrambling to find positive ways to help people cope … Members of the congregation loved the idea, viewing it as an opportunity to connect the Ashley community with the love of Christ.”
With the daily routine in Ashley now going on three weeks, Conklin hopes other churches in the area will join in and follow suit with a daily ringing at 6 p.m. Asked what she would like to say to other churches to encourage them to join in, Conklin said simply, “Try it, you’ll like it.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.