I've always loved the sound of church bells. Even as a child I can remember how the sound of a church bell would seem to pull me right out of whatever mundane, worldly task or thoughts I was experiencing into a place of stillness and reverence and awe. Their solemn tolling reminds me that God our King is near, right here, calling out to be remembered and loved and honored by his beloved creatures. So when I came to Camp Hope and heard their beautiful old fashioned church bell ringing for the Angelus I was enamored! I felt like I was in a time and place far away - old time Europe, a taste of Christendom. Not just the tolling of the bells, but all of Camp Hope gave me that wonderful taste of Christendom, a place where everyone's first priority is loving and serving Christ. At Camp Hope you begin the day with prayer (morning prayer) and then you serve, you pause and pray again (power hour) and serve some more...the tolling of the bell for the Angelus comes at noon, followed by service then Mass, more service, and the day ends with the beautiful chanting of night prayers in the chapel. It is a beautiful rule of life to live by - faithful service to your vocation punctuated by times of reflection and prayer.
At Camp Hope the modern conveniences of our daily life are removed - the internet, phones, devices, air conditioning, a good night sleep in a comfortable bed, clean bathrooms with hot water that aren't infested with spiders - but none of that seems to matter, because in their place are fresh air, the beauty of the outdoors, the joyful noises of children laughing and singing songs of praise, the smiling faces of fellow Christians of all ages serving with joy no matter what the circumstances...Christ within me, Christ before me, Christ behind me - as He always is, but at Camp hope it is so much easier to remember and to see our beautiful Jesus in all things.
I come to Camp hope to serve, but really I get so much more than I could ever give. Each year I've served at camp Jesus has given me a beautiful spiritual lesson to take home with me to help me love and understand Him better. This year my lesson came through the bell.
I have a confession to make - I have always wanted to ring the bell! On the last morning of Camp Hope I was sitting on the old stone steps of the chapel looking out over the lake and the beautiful rolling hills as I had my prayer time, when Bill Ross walked up with his cheerful smile and a twinkle in his eye and asked me if I would like to ring the bell. I couldn't believe it!
With joy and excitement I grabbed the rope and gave a little tug but not much happened. "Pull harder!" Bill advised, so I put more force into my next tug and heard the bell call out its beautiful familiar ring, but the force of the bell pulling the rope back up after I rang it was so much stronger than I expected that I let go of the rope and fell over backwards! Luckily Dawn and Mary, my two sisters in service in the kitchen, were also there waiting their turn to ring the bell and did so with dignity and grace.
Bill said we could ring the bell again at 7:30, so when the time came I was determined that this time there would be no falling over - I was going to hold on tight! I gave the rope a good hard pull and to my surprise it lifted me right off the ground! I landed in a squat position and had to give a big jump to ring again without falling over, which sent me up even higher, legs sprawling in the air. By this point the bell was the one pulling me and by the third ring I had to jump off the rope mid air so Dawn and Mary could finish the ringing in a more dignified fashion. It was a wildly humbling and joyful and beautiful experience that I will never forget. It was Jesus's gift to me.
In my prayer time since Camp Hope, I've been meditating on this beautiful experience Jesus gave me. The sound of ringing church bells has always awakened in me a sense of reverence and awe and wonder, which are attitudes I should strive to have every day of my life...but in the midst of it all is joy.
I had wanted to ring the bell with dignity and grace like my friends, but the way it turned out was more truly a representation of my life with the Lord (wee Jesus, this is fun!). He keeps me humble with my shortcomings but allows me plenty of joy to compensate. And he reminds me who's actually the one doing the pulling. So I leave Camp Hope again this year with a heart full of joy and gratitude. As we all come down from the mountain into the everyday life of our modern world, may our hearts continue to ring with His joy. May His Kingdom come!
- Beth Hughes, People of Hope member