Two bells dating to the 1800s got new lives Tuesday at the shared home of the First Congregational Church and First United Methodist Church in West Chicago.
Judith Horsley, chairwoman of the churches' Bell Plaza Committee, said worshippers from both congregations supported refurbishing the bells, which are artifacts from the churches' beginnings in the city. The First Congregational bell is dated 1869, while the year 1896 is engraved on the United Methodist bell, she said.
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The churches' partnership began about a decade ago, when the First Congregational Church invited worshippers from the United Methodist Church to use their space while the new United Methodist was being built at 643 E. Washington St.
Since then, Horsley said, the churches have shared a pastor. After the United Methodist Church moved into its new space, worshippers from the First Congregational Church followed.
"We're actually two churches under one roof," Horsley said. "We just found we had a lot in common with each other, our mission goals, our outreach goals."
In October, the worshippers agreed to have the bells from both churches shipped to Smith's Bell and Clock Service in Indiana, where they received new yolks, clappers, pull wheels and other alternations that made them ring.
"We wanted to do something that would honor this kind of joyful union of two churches, two congregations, really enjoying each other and worshipping together," Horsley said.
Kramer Tree Specialists donated manpower and equipment to lift the refurbished 1,700-pound and 2,300-pound bells off a trailer and onto A-frames at the church Tuesday, where they rang in unison for the first time.
"We're very excited," Horsley said. "They do sound very good together."
In the coming months, engraved bricks that were purchased by members of the congregations to help pay for the bells' restoration will be installed around the bells, along with a bench. Horsley anticipates a formal dedication ceremony for the project will take place in the fall.
"We hope the bells will stand as historical markers for the community as well as a symbol of the fact that two churches love God, follow Jesus and serve others," she said.