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New handbells dedicated at Lazarus United Church of Christ

The handbell choir at Lazarus United Church of Christ dedicates new bells to replace equipment lost in a December 2013 fire that destroyed the church building.

Placing their hands on each other's shoulders, more than 70 members of the Lazarus United Church of Christ blessed the organization's 32 new bells Sunday morning at the Lineboro Fire Hall, where the church has met since its building was destroyed in December 2013 fire.

"It's been difficult but we did it. We are proud to announce the Lazarus UCC has received enough sponsorships to purchase new handbells to continue allowing our choirs to spread the word of God through music," said Handbell Choir Director Rita Becker.

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According to Becker, the church's Handbell Choir was established 25 years ago.

The choir's instruments were lost in the fire that destroyed the church. The church's members are still rebuilding, and the choir borrowed handbells from Steltz United Methodist Church in New Freedom, Pennsylvania, to continue its musical ministry. After several performances, the choir received enough sponsorships to purchase new bells.

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"Anybody who donated $100 or more will have their name displayed on a plaque," Becker said. "Once our church is rebuilt, the plaque will be put on display in the new building."

Becker said the remains of the church will be demolished in the next few months. She hopes to see the church rebuilt by next spring.

During Sunday's service, the choir performed several times and received resounding applause. Each donor's name was read by the Rev. Sam Chamelin. He and church members thanked Becker for her hard work and dedication to the music program.

"In the words of St. Augustine, 'He who sings prays twice.' Music is a unique way of praying," Chamelin said of the choir.

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Becker's daughter, Alexis Masimore, of Lineboro, has been a member of the Handbell Choir for 21 years. She said the dedication was a wonderful way to show that the congregation is moving forward.

"We're bringing light again to the darkness we had to endure for two years," Masimore said. "We always had a strong musical program. I think by continuing, we're showing how dedicated we are to get the church back on its feet."

Choir member Stephanie Barilaro, of Hanover, Pennsylvania, said she was excited to see the bells replaced.

"The music ministry is important to the congregation. They enjoy hearing the bells play," Barilaro said.

Choir member Wendy Miller, of Manchester, said the dedication was a significant moment for the church.

"It was important for us to give back to the people who donated the bells with this performance," Miller said.

Choir member Audrey Warren, of Lineboro, said she enjoys playing the same songs she learned as a child.

"Many of the songs that we're playing are in the hymnals, and we've heard them since we were little. It gets in your head and you take it with you throughout the day," Warren said.

Choir member Estella Gover, 8, of Manchester, said she was grateful people raised money so the choir could purchase new bells.

"We get to keep performing for older people in nursing homes and for sick kids," Estella said.

Becker's mother, Mary Jane Graf, of Lineboro, was baptized at the original church and continues to be a congregation member.

"Some people enjoy that part of the service more than anything. Rita is a great leader and puts all of herself into the choir," Graf said.

Doris Dickmyer, of Lineboro, donated two bells to the choir.

"I think its an important part of the ministry because it brings more people in. I enjoy listening to them and hearing the joyful music," Dickmyer said.

Esther Renoll, of Millers, and her family also sponsored a bell.

"I think it's a wonderful part of the service. Rita has done a great job getting sponsors. It's great to hear our own bells again," Renoll said.

410-857-7873

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