Church bell rings for COVID-19 victims, heroes

Every day around noon, Arden Tewksbury walks over to South Auburn United Methodist Church, enters the vestibule and starts tugging on the rope that extends from the belfry. On an average day, the 87-year-old will pull on that rope more than 50 times, causing the church bell to peal out over the community for several minutes.

Ringing the bell is one way, Tewksbury says, that he can remind others that the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-present struggle throughout our nation.

“We’re doing this in honor of our people who are losing their lives in this terrible fight and the doctors and nurses and first responders, that’s who we’re doing this for,” Tewksbury explains. “And it’s appropriate to do it in the House of the Lord.”

It is this House of the Lord in Meshoppen, Pennsylvania, that is especially meaningful to Tewksbury. One of his earliest memories recalls his 4-year-old self sitting in a toddler-sized chair while attending Sunday School. He remembers stories of how his grandparents helped build the church, which was dedicated in 1902, and both of Tewksbury’s parents’ funerals were held inside the sanctuary with the stained lumber walls and ceiling. The church bell jogs fond memories too.

Two different wars

"In 1945, I was 13. It was V-J Day and my sister and I rang and rang and rang and rang that same bell to honor the boys and girls who gave us victory in World War II,” Tewksbury says, recalling August 15, 1945, the date that marked the end of the war.

“We’re in a war now,” he says, adding that the coronavirus battle is different. “Usually when you’re in a war, you know who your opponents are. This war is invisible and we don’t know who it’s going to grab next.”

Tewksbury has heard that others appreciate hearing the bells, that the sound is meaningful to them. Two local news stations came out and did a story about the bell ringing, garnering a bit of media attention for the Susquehanna county native.

Tewksbury is quick to point out that he isn’t personally interested in the media attention.

“I’m not doing this for myself,” he states, emphatically. “This is for the glory of God and for my church. And it’s going to ring every day right up to the summer.”

*Crystal Caviness works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact her by email or at 615-742-5138.

This story was published May 4, 2020.

The video is used with permission from WNEP -TV 16  in Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.