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All Saints’ Day to be celebrated loud and clear around Carroll County

The Revs. Malcolm Stranathan, right, and Ken Humbert of Westminster United Methodist Church will be taking part in a simultaneous bell-ringing event on Sunday, Nov. 1, in conjunction with All Saints' Day. The idea came from Westminster United Methodist Church, but it will include several other churches. It's to commemorate the people who have died as a result of COVID-19 while also paying tribute to the religious holiday.
The Revs. Malcolm Stranathan, right, and Ken Humbert of Westminster United Methodist Church will be taking part in a simultaneous bell-ringing event on Sunday, Nov. 1, in conjunction with All Saints' Day. The idea came from Westminster United Methodist Church, but it will include several other churches. It's to commemorate the people who have died as a result of COVID-19 while also paying tribute to the religious holiday. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

All Saints’ Day is Sunday, Nov. 1, and several Carroll County churches have come up with a way to send a unified message of recognition to their congregations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Westminster Ministerium, which serves faith communities in Westminster and northern Carroll, is asking for participating churches around the county to ring their bells at noon. There is a 10-minute period planned for the chimes, which are meant for people to pause for reflection and remembrance.

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All Saints’ Day is a religious holiday that dates back more than 1,600 years, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. It started being observed on Nov. 1 around 731 AD when Pope Gregory III dedicated a chapel in Rome in honor of all saints.

Westminster Ministerium’s plan is for people to finish Sunday morning worship, listen, and stop to remember those who have died within the last year.

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“Our hope is that people will hear the bells, pause for a minute in unity with one another, just to acknowledge that, we’re in this and we’ll get through this all together,” said Rev. Malcolm Stranathan, lead pastor at Westminster United Methodist Church.

Stranathan said the bell-ringing event, called “Saints Remembered, Community Renewed,” is a way for area congregations to join together in times of grief ― the pandemic has led to many people not being able to attend funerals, or visit loved ones in hospitals, because of COVID-19 concerns. Church services were altered as well amid the pandemic, and the Ministerium has been meeting virtually to figure out different ways to worship and express messages of faith.

“It seems that there’s so much around us that’s kind of pulling up apart these days,” said Rev. Ken Humbert, minister of visitation at Westminster UMC. “I mean, grandma and grandpa can’t even kiss the grandkids. So what’s something we could do together? And the thought was, well, one of the things lots of us have ... is bells in our churches.”

Rev. Kevin Clementson, co-senior pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster, said the bells represent a public voice and should give community members a sense of pride when they hear them.

“We’re hoping that it’s just a way of saying, hey, you know what, in a difficult time and in the recognition of so many people who have died in the midst of all that’s going on, the church is here,” Clementson said. “We’re praying, we are remembering.”

Not all of the churches associated with the Ministerium have bells, but those that do will be ringing them at noon.

Churches from Eldersburg, Finksburg, Manchester, and Silver Run are also participating in Sunday’s bell-ringing event. Humbert said Carroll Hospital Center, McDaniel College, and Westminster Volunteer Fire Company are also participating in their own way.

Hospital staff will be wearing stickers with a bell on them, and handing them out to visitors, Humbert said, while the college will ring its Old Main Bell on campus.

“It’s really not so much what we get out of it, but rather it’s an opportunity for the churches as a community to be able to speak by unique voice to the community as a whole,” Clementson said.

The country is approaching 230,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, making this year’s All Saints’ Day ceremony poignant for those involved. Humbert said the hope is people hear the bells and reflect on what has transpired over the last year.

“A time of remembrance for those who we’ve lost. A time for recognition for those people who have helped us through this very difficult period. And, a time of renewal,” Humbert said. “Kind of resolving together that we’re not going to let all that we have sacrificed and all whom we have lost to have happened in vain.

“We’re going to find new ways to claim our common community and make things better, to help our world and our little place in it become a better place.”

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