Cheyenne Wells UMC's new chimes ring the message of peace, love to community

December 17, 2019
Submitted by Pastor Janita Krayniak
Cheyenne Wells, Eads and Haswell UMCs, Colorado

In the last couple of weeks, you may have heard the new chimes playing from the steeple at The United Methodist Church of Cheyenne Wells. You may have heard the bells playing while you are headed into work, or while you are eating your lunch or even as you were settling down to read a book in your favorite cozy chair. These chimes were the dream of the late David Pedersen of Cheyenne Wells and they became a reality thanks to the generous memorial gifts that were made in his memory. Carleton Pelton and Mike Smith oversaw the installation, and when the first bell rang through the air over Cheyenne Wells, a musical legacy brought the gift of music into the hearts of people all over the town. 

The ringing bells remind of the Christmas carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day!" 

The year was 1863, and the Civil War was raging! Families throughout the northern and southern parts of our fledgling nation were being ravaged and torn apart by this war that literally pitted brother against brother and father against son. We were a new nation, proudly called The United States of America, but we were anything but united. It is into this chaos and civil unrest where we find the historical roots of the words to a familiar Christmas carol known as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day!”

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, amidst great personal tragedy, penned this poem from his personal brokenness when his son was injured in the war. Longfellow began to nurse his son back to health in his New England home of Massachusetts, and it was only a short few weeks before Christmas Day, when he heard the bells from a local church begin to chime. The notes that pealed on the bells that day, touched Longfellow’s heart and thus inspired the timeless words of a poem which eventually grew into a beloved Christmas carol that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Longfellow’s original poem reads:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said:
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Though the carol as we know it now, typically uses stanzas one, three, six and seven which leaves out several of the more politically charged statements from the original poem. But even without those stanzas, the powerful refrain of the seemingly simple statement: “Peace on earth, good-will to men!” stands as a bold and powerful statement just as much today as it did to the first carolers who lifted their voices to stand against injustice and hate.
This Christmas Day, in the midst of the brokenness, the chaos, the presents, the food, the family, the moments of sadness and grief, or even when you are just having fun, in whatever it is that you and your families do on Christmas, the people of The United Methodist Church of Cheyenne Wells invite the residents of our town to open a window or door, and if you are not in our little town, then open your hearts even if it is just for a few moments on Christmas Day to hear the bells as they peal the true message of Christmas. Regardless of how or what you may choose to believe, these bells carry a message that spans all faith traditions around our broken and hurting world; a world that is still fighting, a world that is still in turmoil, a world that still struggles with loving one another.
The bells peal a message for the world to hear, and that message is peace.

Merry Christmas from the people of The United Methodist Church of Cheyenne Wells!