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Gratitude Matters: The Bells of St. James

Gratitude Matters
Martha Boughner, St. James, Upper Montclair

At St. James in Upper Montclair, we have an historic Bell Tower, dedicated to the memory of 93 parish veterans of WWI, including 7 who did not return. It is very dear to the hearts of our parish, our neighborhood, and the town. Since the whole top section, where the bells are, is open to the elements, maintenance can be a nightmare! Several years ago, when the leaking water into the nave became a repeated problem and the tower itself became unsafe to enter and the bells unsafe to play, we staged a capital campaign to repair it. Hallelujah! The bells ring again.

Now, several years later in the midst of a pandemic, our Director of Music Ministries, Sean Price, has made it his practice to play 15 minutes of hymns and one secular piece every day after the noon chime. (The secular piece is often tongue-in-cheek, such as “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Accentuate the Positive” and “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” for Easter.) He is physically in the Bell Tower sounding each bell by hand; this is not an electronic keyboard!

For a number of parishioners this has become a daily mission: going to hear the bells, keeping our safe distance, and applauding so Sean can hear our appreciation. Passersby stop to listen and smile, people pull over in their cars to listen, parents have their children listen.

Thank God for St. James’s stewardship of the Bell Tower! It’s a blessing for our time.