I don’t think there is a person alive who doesn’t love the sound of church chimes. They sound-out to call the faithful to worship. Long ago, this act required that a bell ringer run to the church to perform this duty, and to be there on time.Today is so different. The lovely, clear sounds of church bells are possible from a solid state, digital system.
Church bells became common in Europe in the early Middle Ages. At one time, virtually every church and cathedral throughout Europe had church bells. Before mass- communication the only way to gather a village together was to ring the church bells. If
a death were announced, it was known as a “death knell”. Many times the bells were blessed by anointing them with oil. Prayers were often said asking that the sound of the bells would put demons to flight, protect from storms and call the faithful to prayer. Imagine hanging these heavy bells. No songs were played by them. This would require a bell for each note. “Change Ringing” is a particular facet of English bell ringing where bells are rung in mathematical sequence. A few years ago, we heard a performance of “Change Ringing” in a church in Frederick, MD, and found it to be very interesting, and quite unusual!
Now we are to the place where I will talk about my husband. I often mention him in shirlandyou. Having been married sixty years, one is incomplete without the other and no matter what I write about he fits in the story, somewhere. This time I will devote most of this blog to him because he recently completed a project which involved designing and implementing a church chime system. You may think that sounds interesting, but surely not the thing most men would spend time doing. Burl Updyke is not the average man. He is the one who established a local newspaper in his community, now known as Suburban News. He learned the ropes of publishing including the technical end, and worked, installed and repaired type setting machines, equipped dark rooms, etc. He is actually a self taught licensed broadcast engineer and had previously worked ten years as a television engineer at WBRE TV. After serving 20 years in the newspaper business, he moved on to a calling he believed God led him to, the building and establishing of WRGN-FM Christian radio, in Sweet Valley, PA and WIVH-FM, missionary radio in the Virgin Islands. He acted as engineer, architect, and on-air personality and designed and built the automation systems that operate the stations. He did much computer programming, this also being self-taught, and includes a library data base program for the Good News Library, at WRGN. This blog isn’t long enough for me to tell you all the hobby-type projects he has completed in his home workshop, including cutting brass gears and making a French style skeleton clock. But one of them is the “Digital Toy Counter,” which attaches to electronic theatre organs and, during the playing of a composition, allows the organist to activate sounds like whistles, horns, cymbals, bird calls, horse trots, etc. He installed it on his Allen theater organ and has sold almost 50 of these to other delighted organists. If you are familiar with one of his latest projects, a Wurlitzer type, Military Band Organ, then you realize that his capabilities and drive are endless. I tell you all this, so that you will be better able to comprehend his latest accomplishment.
If you begin to add up the years he has spent in various occupations, you will feel this man deserves a quiet, simple retirement of basking in the sunshine, reading or traveling. Not so for Burl. He recently completed many months and hours developing,
and designing a solid state, digital church chime system for our church and is making it available to other churches also. We used to hear the chimes of a nearby church, and looked forward to the lovely sounds and the reminder of a particular time of day their ringing gave us. But some time ago, these chimes ceased to be heard and Burl knew why. Churches across our countryside had, many years ago, installed expensive, state-of-the-art chime systems that have now become antiquated. Most of them used cassette tapes that, with age, lost their ability to perform accurately. Burl’s system, which he named, “Sweet Valley Chimes,” has taken the high cost out of church chime systems, and has added reliability and clarity never heard before. Songs for special holidays and special occasions can be programmed into the system and automatically chime without any assistance from an operator. Global Positioning (GPS) circuitry accounts for the incredible accuracy of the unit and a microprocessor adds to it’s long-term reliability. Two of these chime systems are already in operation.
I’ve spent time telling you about this recent development because both of us feel excited that churches may again have reliable chimes pealing out a message that the church is alive and well, proud of its heritage, and is welcoming those who listen and hear, to come and worship with the faithful who remain eager to bring together people in worship to God.