Ascension Day

View from the top of the bell tower above the main doors.

It’s good for clergy to know their churches inside and out. And up. With this in mind I ascended to the bell tower this afternoon for the first time. I’ve been meaning to do this ever since I arrived at St. John’s 11 months ago. Somehow winter didn’t seem like the best season for this and then it was suddenly 95 degrees which didn’t seem so inviting either.

An artistic shot don't you think?

But today I ran out of excuses (did I mention I’m not a big fan of heights?). 70 degrees and sunny with a gentle breeze blowing was the perfect day to get up to the bell tower and check things out. So with my bemused organist looking on I climbed the rickety wooden ladder up from the tower room (which we use as a Sunday School room) and into the bell tower. Kids, don’t try this at home. And while you’re at it, don’t tell  Bryna about this little escapade.

The one and only bell at St. John's.

It was a pretty big space considering it only holds one Liberty Bell-sized bell. No dead animals or skeletons of past rectors I’m pleased to report. Just a bunch of old ropes since when you replace the rope every 50 years or so why would you bother actually removing the old one?

From the bell tower I spied another wooden ladder leading up to the ceiling. This was a trickier maneuver but I climbed up, unlatched the roof hatch, pushed it aside, and finally got up onto the top of the bell tower. You should know that below the tower room is the narthex (main entryway) — people enter the front doors of the church beneath the tower room. I call this whole part of the church “The Rook” because that’s what it looks like to me.

On the roof itself you can’t get a really clear view except through the slat-like castle openings. The original architect designed the bell tower so that archers could rain down arrows upon invading infidels. This is a handy feature in any church and I believe we could also get pots of boiling oil up there in case of emergency.

The back of the church from on high -- why flat roofs in New England? Why?

Next time I go up there I’ll plan to bring vestments and a bullhorn. I’d like to preach from there, figuring that it would add to my general air of gravitas. Unfortunately I doubt I’d be able to tell who was sleeping — it’s pretty high up.


3 Comments on “Ascension Day”

  1. At Holy Trinity in Buffalo (a real gem) the tradition was to go to the top of the tower and sign in. My name and date is there among some of the ‘giants of the RC diocese” and not a few of the Episcopal Diocese of Western NY (after the fact). I have wonderful memories!!!

  2. Dave Clinton says:

    You can call that mass, God’s Power from the Tower!

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