At 1 p.m. every Wednesday, the bell in the historic chapel at Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Castle Rock rings 49 times — one toll in remembrance of each person killed in the Orlando, Florida, shootings on June 12.
As the bells toll,pastors and community members in attendance pray not only for those killed in Orlando, but also people killed, injured and bereaved in San Bernardino, California; Aurora; Newtown, Connecticut; Dallas and countless other communities across the nation that have experiencedtragic and deadly shootings.
“My hope for the bell tolling is that it would bring the community to prayer and also to discernment of how we can bring peace,” said the Rev. Brian Winter of Christ Episcopal. “How can we be that spark of joy and peace in people’s lives?”
The Castle Rock church is only one of many embracing the Tolling of the Bells project. Episcopal churches across Colorado are participating with a goal to bring change to their neighbors, community and elected representatives in the U.S. Congress by bringing continues awareness to gun voilence.
Rev. Susan Springer, of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder, organized the project that continues through Nov. 2. The Episcopal Church in Colorado is made up of 103 worshipping communities with approximately 30,000 members.
Since the early Middle Ages, churches have rung bells to call people to prayer and a community to attention, both facets represented in the Tolling of the Bells project.
“After each mass shooting we, like many other Americans, are outraged and deeply saddened,” the project page on episcopalcolorado.org reads. “We pray. In time, the shock of the incident diminishes. The demands of our own lives intervene and draw our attention elsewhere — until the next tragic incident occurs. We find ourselves praying that each incident will be the last, and yet they continue.”
For Winter, prayer is the beginning.
“It has to start with prayer and hopefully prayer can change the world,” he said. “But it also changes us. It makes us more aware of who we are and what our part in all of this is.”
At the same time the bells toll in Castle Rock, they are tolling at St. Philip in the Field Church in Sedalia.
“There’s a solidarity in a sense of bonding,” the Rev. Janet Fullmer said of the bells ringing at the same time throughout the state. “It underscores that we’re not alone in caring and remembering and thinking and praying and trying to be agents of change.”
Some churches, such as St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Littleton, don’t have bells to toll. So the congregations is raising awareness with a plywood sign in the shape of a bell, which is displayed in front of the church on Dry Creek Road.
“I think everybody is heartbroken by the different violence around us, so we wanted to be part of speaking up for more descent community values,” said Rev. Michael Carney of St. Timothy’s. “We hope to remind the community that there are so many decent, caring people everywhere and that we all stand together against this terrible violence.”
In Castle Rock, Winter hopes the bell from his church will be heard blocks away on Wilcox Street.
And he hopes that, when townspeople hear it, they will think about how they can be God’s instruments of peace in the world today.