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Oldest church bell in Kansas rings again over downtown Lawrence

What is being called the oldest church bell in Kansas rings out over downtown Lawrence once again after being restored.

The bell, a 150-year-old ringer as old as the Lawrence United Methodist congregation itself, was taken down for restoration nearly a year ago.

“We had planned a big block party,” Marc Ridenour said as the 1,500 pounds of brass was hoisted to its resting place.

A crew of specialists from Kentucky was on hand to make sure it went smoothly.

church bellIt wasn’t quite the celebration they’d hoped for. The pandemic meant only a handful of members could watch the ascension.

“COVID hit and it took everything back. So we’re excited to be here,” Deb Rukes said.

Restoring the bell is part of a larger renovation project at the church. They’ve also been fixing up the stonework on the towers and remodeling the sanctuary during the pandemic.

“Before it had been held together by baling wire and mending strap,” Ridenour said.

The church, designed by John G. Haskell and constructed in 1889, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Haskell also designed the Douglas County Courthouse, which was built with limestone from the same quarry, and the English Lutheran Church at 1040 New Hampshire St.

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The bell was shipped to the Verdin Company in Cincinnati for refurbishing. The roof on the two towers was replaced with Vermont slate. Along with repainting the original stone, the iron railings around one tower were rebuilt.

“We are doing a historically accurate restoration and hopefully making it last for the next 100 years,” Ridenour said

The “A flat” bell is rung, by a long rope, at 10:20 a.m. every Sunday and can be heard throughout the neighborhood.

“It has a wonderful tone,” Yelin said.

A tone to echo through town for perhaps another century at the downtown Lawrence church, located at 946 Vermont.  Another video of the bell placement and its first restored ringing can be found on the church’s facebook page.

Bell has returned!

Posted by First Church Lawrence on Monday, July 13, 2020

The church is currently offering online worship, as well as an outdoor service at its West Lawrence campus, 867 Highway 40.  For more information on the church, go to www.fumclawrence.org.

Marc Ridenour with the newly placed bell.

–Metro Voice and wire services