Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Southwest Minneapolis church rings a new old bell

A small congregation in southwest Minneapolis has a tall new tower with a big old bell, ready for ringing.

Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer (LCCR), 55th and Penn Avenue South, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, erected its bell tower this spring in time for first ringing of the bell Easter weekend. The bell sounded both Holy Saturday evening and Easter Sunday morning.

The Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer (ELCA) in south Minneapolis recently constructed a bell to tower. The bell will announce to the community both worship services and funerals.

The Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer (ELCA) in south Minneapolis recently constructed a bell to tower. The bell will announce to the community both worship services and funerals.

“Church bells sing resurrection,” says LCCR Pastor Mary Albing. “We will ring it every Sunday and at funerals, remembering all our beloved saints.”

The bell tower is dedicated to the memory of deceased believers. Names of about 50 loved ones of LCCR members will be memorialized on a plaque to be mounted near the tower.

The bell itself is a large bronze instrument cast in 1879 in St. Louis for a German Lutheran parish (“Evangelische St. Johannis Gemeinde”) in the town of Arago, Richardson County, a locale in the far southeast corner of Nebraska. The town died and the church ceased to exist early in the 20th century. Its bell, long silent and stored in Red Oak, Iowa, was located online several years ago by LCCR members, Marilyn and Mike Miller. The Millers acquired it for their congregation, which agreed to construct a tower for the bell.

Like many of its era, the bell has two clappers. One is attached to the side of the yoke and used for controlled ringing — three times for a worship service, for example, or to announce that someone has died, and at the funeral. The tradition is to toll once for each year the departed has lived. The other clapper, suspended inside the bell and rung by a rope on the wheel, is used for pealing the bell at times of celebration.

Without a bell no more

Finding the funds, designing and building the tower, and getting the required city permits became a major undertaking over a three-year period. A group of LCCR members and friends invested many hours in the shop of Northern Lights Timber Framing, Minneapolis, under the direction of owner Clark Bremer. Says Mike Miller, who led the LCCR work crew, “It was because of Clark’s willingness to combine the skills and resources of Northern Lights with our volunteers that the project came to fruition. It really was a labor of love for everyone involved.”

Members of the congregation expressed gratitude to all of the tower project’s contributors — from the bell itself, to labor on the tower building, to dollars for construction costs, to persistence with city bureaucracy for permits, to energy for committee work in planning and fund-raising.

Since church bells are rare in south Minneapolis, LCCR sees its bell as a gift to the larger community as well as to the congregation. Pastor Albing puts it this way: “Marilyn Miller likes to say, ‘A church without a bell is a silent church.’ We believe this bell sings out hope for our whole community.”