Church of the Ascension Finally Rings Rare Bells for Community

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- After years of dreaming and thousands of hours of hard work, the heavenly sounds of a unique set of 10 bells are finally drawing in curious onlookers from all over the region to the Church of the Ascension.

On Saturday, the Lake Avenue-based church held a dedication and consecration for its new set of rare bells.

“I came because I’ve always wanted to see the bell ringers in action,” Pittsford resident Jean France said.

There are less than 50 United States churches with change ringing bells. Bell ringers from all over the U.S. and Canada came to help ring the bells.

For France, even though her daughter was a bell ringer for a decade, this is the first time she’s heard the sounds.

“I understand it’s a joyful noise,” France said.

Her friend Nancy Bolger first read about change ringing in the book The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers. On Saturday however, she wanted to do more than just imagine them.

“I think there are two other places in the state, one of them being in Manhattan where we can hear this, unless we go to Toronto,” Bolger said. “So here we are, 20 minutes away from where we live and we’re hearing this wonderful gift to this church.”

While France plans to bring her daughter to see the bells when she’s in town, those in charge of the project are glad to see the bells are already ringing in the hearts of those who came to see them.

“It’s sort of an answer to all the trouble in the world these days,” bell ringer Chris Haller said. “We are setting forth the bells and the ringing of the bells as an example to the rest of the world of peace, harmony, and good music.”

The bell tower was first built in 1929 during the Great Depression. The first commemorative bell rang in 1968.

Now, each bell that rings is named after a historical or inspiring figure from society. They also include inscriptions relating to that person. One bell named after Frederick Douglass reads “Ring in the valiant man and free.” Another bell named after Susan B. Anthony reads, “Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

The bells range in weight from 375 pounds to 1,267 pounds.

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