Petawawa -- After 18 years of silence, the historical bell once more sits atop All Saints Anglican Church in Petawawa and is again a part of the Sunday morning soundscape of the community.
The bell, and the cupola housing it, were taken down after it was discovered during roof re-shingling in 2004 that wood rot had made it unsafe, according to a long-time member of the congregation, Bob Ross.
The church was built in 1888.
Mr. Ross believes that All Saints is the oldest operating church in Petawawa.
“St. John’s Lutheran was actually in business before 1888 but not in the current building,” he said.
St. John’s was organized in 1867 and now worships in a building constructed in 1897.
Stamped on the bell is the information that it was cast in 1893 at the Meneely & Co. foundry in West Troy, New York.
“I don’t know when the bell was actually installed, but a 1915 photo shows it in place at that time,” Mr. Ross said.
Parishioners who had grown up with the bell as part of their worship experience keenly felt the void left by its absence.
Yvonne Andrews, All Saints treasurer, said her husband, Steven, had fond memories of ringing the bell when he was a youngster.
“He said that it was the best part about being a server,” she said. “He felt badly that, because the bell came down, none of our children had that experience growing up.”
Restoring the bell was high on the wish list for the congregation, which several years ago investigated funding assistance available through a program of the Anglican Church of Canada. Mr. Ross, who lived in Petawawa before re-locating to Peterborough where he now resides, looked into the feasibility of the project, contacting the municipality and having preliminary drawings done. However, even with the available financial help, it was out of reach for the congregation at that time.
Then, at the start of 2021, the family of Gordon Welsh, a frequent participant in worship there, approached the congregation offering to make a financial donation to express their gratitude for the inclusive and welcoming environment their brother experienced in that church community.
“It was our way of giving thanks for the wonderful reception Gordon has experienced over the years – at least 10 – that he has worshipped there,” said Gordon’s brother, Bill Welsh of Renfrew.
The congregation’s dream of once more having a bell to ring was re-awakened. Members Louise and Jeff Doran dusted off the detailed file left by Mr. Ross. The Dorans took the lead in liaising with the town for permits, having the preliminary drawings reviewed by an engineer and finalized, and working with the builder. Sam Buttle, a member of a sister congregation, St. Stephen’s in Micksburg, helped with obtaining a building permit and engaging a contractor, Wesley Teunissen, to complete the project.
Construction took place in October of 2021 and the bell was rung for the first time in its new chapter of service on October 31.
Another COVID shutdown began before a dedication service could be held, however.
That long-awaited celebration took place on Trinity Sunday, June 12 of this year. The Rt. Rev. Shane Parker, Bishop of the Diocese of Ottawa of the Anglican Church of Canada, was present to bless the bell and celebrate with the congregation.
The honour of ringing the newly-dedicated bell went to the Rev. Matthew Brown, Incumbent for the Area Parish of the Valley. The Rev. Gillian Hoyer, at present on parental leave from her position as rector of All Saints, said the return of the bell has meant a great deal to members of the congregation.
“They are proud to ring the bell each Sunday to call us to worship and take great joy in having it back on the roof,” she said. “I’ve heard more than one comment about how much more like a church the building looks now that it has the bell cupola back. At least half a dozen members came to watch the crane lift the bell back onto the roof and I heard more than one comment along the lines of ‘I never thought I would see the day….’”
Louise Doran is still basking in the glow of the project’s successful completion.
“On June 12, the church was filled with so many happy faces,” she said. “How wonderful it was to see several of our very senior members coming through the doors! One of them said it brought tears to their eyes to hear the bell rung.
“I can’t help but smile when I see our little place of worship again look like it should – a church,” she added.
There have been Anglicans worshipping in Petawawa since the 1880s, when the first congregation of All Saints began as part of the Mission of Mattawa. The structure has been expanded three times, most recently in 1994 to add a hall and kitchen and make the building fully accessible. However, it maintains the outer appearance of the original 1888 building.
The church has two cemeteries: one directly behind the church, and the lower cemetery, which contains the graves of early settlers and military personnel, further down beside the Petawawa River.
All Saints is one of the more than a dozen churches which make up the Parish of the Valley which in turn is part of the Diocese of Ottawa.
Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader