One year later, and many things have changed because of the pandemic.

Despite all of the ways that our daily lives have been altered in the past year, there is one thing that remains the same; the importance of community.

To mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic and in the hope of providing some encouragement to the city, the congregants at St. Joseph's Parish will be ringing the church's bells at noon every day this week. This mirrors the week of chimes that was heard coming from the bell tower when the pandemic first began.St Josephs 2.JPGSt Joseph's Catholic Parish. (Photo credit, Blaise Wozniak).

"Initially in the start, the thinking was to just give people hope that they weren't alone," explains Janie Fries whose idea it was to start ringing the bells in 2020.

"This time around things are completely different. We've got a few members of the church who have passed away because of the virus. So, it's just kind of a reflection of where we've come from and what we've been through."

Fries says the sound of the bells was heard all across the city and many were grateful for the hope they provided.

"I think it makes them feel like they are part of the community. When they talk to a friend who lives in a different part of the city but who heard them as well, it's almost like looking at the moon and knowing that you're sharing it with people all over the work. It really joins us together in our path forward."

These noontime chimes at St. Joseph's mark a significant point in the pandemic. But keen-eared residents might have heard the peel of a different set of chimes all last year. For almost an entire year now, Dr. Rhoda Cairns has been playing the Evensong bells at St. Aidan's Anglican Church every Sunday evening at 7:00. She says it was a way for her to keep the ministry of the church going even while the doors were temporarily closed.

"When they closed down the building in the first week, it just felt dead in a way," explains Cairns. "So, I got the idea because it was something that I could do to help keep the building alive. I just wanted to do something to be a part of this church and bless people as they were walking by."

Cairns thought that she would only be ringing the bells for the duration of Lent but the response was so positive that she decided to continue it indefinitely.

Michelle Josefson, the parish administrator at St. Aidan's, describes just how much of a commitment the weekly music has been.

"She really has been putting on a bit of a concert every week. I think she's only missed one Sunday since she started this last March. It's been an incredible effort for the sake of the community."

Josefson says many people phone the office and expressed their gratitude, even if they had no previous connection to the church.

"It's been important for our congregation to be able to come down and hear that familiar sound and it's just been one of the ways that we can still reach out to the community. We're so grateful to Rhoda for making it possible.

If we've learned anything from the past year, it's that church bells seem to have the uncanny ability to stop people in their tracks and listen to the ringing tunes.

"You can't ring church bells as an individual experience, they ring out over the whole city. They've served a number of purposes over the years, but now in the last year, in particular, I think that they've been able to provide some hope to a much broader community."

If you happen to hear either the bells of St. Joseph's at noon or St. Aidan's in the evening, take a minute to reflect on the ways the community has pulled together through this tough year.


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