We have several churches in Hyde Park, but only one (besides the carillon in UChicago’s Rockefeller Chapel) has a bell—United Church of Hyde Park. (Correct me if I’m wrong!) Mr. Cal Audrain graciously showed me around their church and bell.
United Church lines the commercial artery of 53rd Street in my neighborhood. As its name suggests, the church is a union of Presbyterian, Congregational, and Methodist congregations that were active in Hyde Park as early as the 1850s. The formal merger of all three denominations into this one church occurred in 1970.
The bell of United Church of Hyde Park, then, is actually inscribed to the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church. It was cast by Meneely of West Troy (now known as Watervliet), New York. The inscription reads:
Presented to the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church
by James Johnson
I ring out the Darkness of the Land
I ring in the Christ that is to be
1870 or thereabouts is a fairly early date for a bell in Chicago. I would bet that not many other churches in Chicago have tower bells in action that predate this one.
It’s rung the old-fashioned way—by pulling on a rope to swing the bell around.
And then there’s this mysterious sign on the door to the bell. Not sure what the chimes were that preceded this single bell. A peal? A ring? A chime? Where did they go? Hmmm.
The bell is rung at 10:15 a.m. on Sundays before the service, although not on a regular basis. I live just a couple of blocks away, and I think I heard it ring once on a Sunday morning. I definitely took note!