Wellesley Village Church, along with many other area churches, will ring their steeple bells 20 times at 10am over ten consecutive days beginning Sunday, September 27. The symbolism behind the tolling is to remember the 200,000+ Americans who have died from COVID-19.
The ringing of the bells is also a way for churches to express their care for those grieving the loss of loved ones, friends, and neighbors, and to signal that they are not forgotten. By following the old tradition of ringing church bells when a community member dies, the dignity of each life lost is marked. As they ring, the church is called to prayer on behalf of all who have suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The ringing of church bells is part of an ancient tradition to mark the passing of a member of the community and to serve as a witness to loss. According to The Church Bells of England, by H.B. Walters, “The ringing of a church bell in the English tradition to announce a death is called a death knell. The pattern of striking in earlier times depended on the person who had died; for example in the counties of Kent and Surrey in England it was customary to ring three times three strokes for a man, and three times two for a woman, with a varying usage for children. The age of the deceased was then rung out. In small settlements this could effectively identify who had just died.”