Norwich - With just 13 months to go until the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, local churches are working to get their bells in good repair so they can participate in a communal ringing to celebrate the document that freed the slaves.
Celebration planners are working with the Ohio-based bell manufacturer Verdin Co. to inspect and repair church bells throughout the city for the event.
On Dec. 8, Verdin representatives will host a free luncheon meeting to assist churches in identifying sources of funding for bell repairs and maintenance. The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church on Chapel Hill Road in Yantic.
Local congregations - even in churches that don't have bells - are asked to call the Friends of the Norwich Bells at (860) 319-5717 to reserve seating for up to two church representatives.
Verdin inspectors have discovered that a number of the city's bells are in need of repair before they can be rung properly and safely, said Kevin Harkins, president of Friends of the Norwich Bells.
Harkins' group has been photographing and recording bells throughout the city for a CD to be release next fall called "Ring Out Rose City." The Friends group is also coordinating the citywide ringing of the bells on Jan. 1, 2013, as part of Norwich's observance of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
"Churches are having to navigate tough economic times just like the rest of us," Harkins said. "Sometimes it's a struggle just to keep the lights on and the sanctuaries heated. But the ringing of bells is a treasured part of a church's spiritual life."
City Historian Dale Plummer, a member of the Emancipation Proclamation Committee, said some of Norwich's bells weigh more than a ton and predate the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
"It's important to maintain something that big and assure the integrity of its supporting structure so that when you pull the rope, the bell sounds both melodically and safely," Plummer said.
More information is available at http://norwichfreedombell.com. For information about Friends of the Norwich Bells, call (860) 319-5717, or go to: http://friendsofthenorwichbells.com.