Mills River – Wonderful melodious sounds of bells ringing can now be heard every hour from 9:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night in areas around Mills River and the surrounding valley. Those driving along Route 191 may have noticed and wondered about the open tower near All Saints Anglican Church at 15 McDowell Road. What is that? What is going on there? And for some time, there was little activity near or around it. Then on Sunday, July 5th, the newly installed bells rang out for the first time, peeling across the valley and community at the beginning of the 11 am Blessing of the Bells service. This was an important moment in the church’s history which was founded as a part of the Anglican Province of America.
Father Erich Zwingert, SSC, in the Blessing Service held near the bell tower, spoke “of the spirituality of church bells, which began particularly in monastic communities as a call to prayer in the 5th century.” “Church bells have a spiritual power to call down angels and cause Satan, evil, and temptation to flee.” He said, “These are no ordinary bells. Each time we hear a church bell it should remind us to thank God for the many blessings of this life.” Father Erich arrived as the 5th Rector (senior pastor) of All Saints in April of 2013. He and his wife Kathy have been married since 1983. They have two children, Kaitlin, of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Peter, who is a sailor in the US Navy.
Thirty-four years ago in 1986, All Saints Church acquired property on McDowell Road in Mills River, North Carolina. In 1993, construction began on the present church building and was completed the following year. A classroom wing was added in 2004, south of the parish hall. When it became apparent a few years ago that the parish needed to plan for the future due to the growth they were experiencing, they launched a construction project in 2018 to build office space, expand the parish hall, and erect a bell tower. All those projects, along with a new picnic shelter, were completed last year, except for one thing: bells in the bell tower.
The new bells were finally installed on Monday, June 29th. After two long years of anticipation, a fully working bell tower came to fruition. The men from Meeks, Watson, and Company of Georgetown, Ohio, who had molded and cast these enormous bells, got straight to work. On hand from the company were Bill Meeks, the co-owner of the company, his son Josh, who is the plant manager, and their install technician Cody. Tim from Jim’s Crane Company was the crane operator, and Gerald from Mechanical Building Systems was the onsite electrician.
Monday was spent raising the bells into the tower and attaching them in place. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent installing all the wiring, motors, relays, etc. required to operate the bells. (A computer activates the bells.) On Thursday afternoon, the bells were rung for testing and adjusting. An eight-minute video of the new bells being lifted and placed into the bell tower can be seen by scanning the QR code.
The casting and construction of these three huge bells was quite an endeavor requiring incredible skill. The tenor bell, C4, weighs all of 650 pounds with E4 and G4 being somewhat smaller. Each bell must have bolt holes drilled (which will be used to hold the bell on to its yoke), then be remounted on a vertical boring mill, mouth down, and spun, so that the exterior surface can be sanded smooth, giving the bell its final lovely outer finish. Once that is done, the bells need to get tuned.
Thus on Sunday, July 5, All Saints Anglican Church celebrated and finalized the expansion of their parish church with a Solemn Blessing of Church Bells, thereby dedicating, blessing, and consecrating three new bells installed in the tower the previous week. The bells continue to ring out melodiously each day on the hour for all in the area to hear, and will ring on special occasions.
A video of the service can be seen at https://allsaintsmillsriver.org/solemn-blessing-of-church-bells-at-all-saints-church.
All Saints Anglican Church uses the Book of Common Prayer in its 1928 American edition. The Church suspended their worship services for approximately 8 weeks beginning in March due to the COVID-19 virus, then opened their doors again for gathering to worship on Sunday, May 24. They follow all protocols to ensure as safe an environment as possible – 50% capacity in the church, roping off every other pew, sanitizing, etc. The church members have an active parish food drive, delivering food and other necessities to Interfaith Assistance Ministry in Henderson County and Bread of Life in Brevard. Carloads of supplies and cooking materials are continuously being delivered. They are live-streaming their worship Wednesday nights and Sundays for those staying at home. For more information call 828 891-7216 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.