For years, the First Congregational Church of Fall River has been denied the quintessential sound of a church: the ringing of a bell.
The church’s prized bell — which dates back to the 1830s and was made by the company founded by patriot Paul Revere — has been silent for at least six years, supported by a wooden “cradle” that has become too weak to hold the bell when it’s in motion.
So this summer, the Rev. Martin Hall, the church’s senior minister, led the church in developing a plan to get the bell ringing again by the church’s bicentennial in 2016.
“There’s this thing you can’t see because it’s 150 feet in the air, and you can’t hear because we can’t ring it,” Hall said of the bell in its tower. “Ringing in our third century is very meaningful for the history.”
Fixing the cradle will be no easy feat. Hall estimated the bell probably weighs over 1,000 pounds, and it rests about 140 or 150 feet off the ground. Replacing the cradle will mean suspending the bell while the wooden cradle is disassembled and removed and a steel cradle is put in its place, all using a crane. It will cost the church an estimated $35,000.
The church will turn to fundraisers, Hall said, like the third annual Harvest Festival planned for Nov. 8, with a book sale, food, and a magic show for children. A rummage sale will be held in the spring next year, and another festival is planned for next fall. Donations from benefactors and churchgoers, charity nights at local restaurants, and “everything in between” will be considered to raise the necessary funds, Hall said.
“For me, and I think for a lot of us, it’s a connection of past and future,” Hall said of the bell, which is stamped “REVERE BOSTON.”
“And even things as simple as the kid who gets to ring the bell that Sunday ... there’s a connection of our history and our future that’s really driving a lot of people,” he said.
The church has already collected about $5,000 through small fundraisers, but “real, heavy duty fundraising is just launching right now,” Hall said.
According to a 1998 unpublished manuscript at the Paul Revere House, a 1,500-pound bell was fashioned by the Revere Copper Company and sent to the church in 1832.
The company had been renamed from Paul Revere and Sons in 1828 after Paul Revere’s death, and was run by his son, Joseph Warren Revere, until his death in the 1860s, according to Paul Revere House curator Edith Steblecki.
Hall hopes to have the $35,000 in place by next fall so construction can begin by early 2016.
“I’m pretty optimistic,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of drive behind this, a lot of motivation, and tying in with our 200th anniversary is really going to help. … I think we can pull it off.”
Kiera Blessing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.