For the first time in more than 20 years, the church bells of St. Laurence Episcopal Church rang in unison to signal the start of Easter Sunday Mass.
The three bronze bells were cast in 1898 by McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, but due to natural wear and tear, only two of the bells were in working order when the church decided last year to make the repairs.
St. Laurence was founded in 1892, and as part of the church’s 125th anniversary, organist and singer Luther Gette said congregation and clergy members decided to invest money into building maintenance projects. The bell repair was on the list.
After researching and struggling to find a contractor to repair the bells, Gette said he found the answer in the church’s “backyard.”
Gette was reading a local publication that highlighted Brian Michaels and his company from Morrisdale — New Vibrations Audio & Video, which specializes in audio and video design and installation.
About five years after New Vibrations opened, Michaels said he began installing speaker systems that broadcast recordings of bells from towers that do not have a working bell. Michaels said his most popular installation in the area is the bell tower speaker system in Old Main on Penn State’s campus.
As he became more knowledgeable about bells and their mechanisms, Michaels said he began to repair bells and has since developed a niche business that is one of the only bell repair companies on the East Coast.
Michaels inspected the St. Laurence bell tower and found that the two working bells need to be cleaned, tightened and oiled, but the third bell had a significant issue.
The forged-iron center bolt that holds the bell in place was not functioning properly and was in danger of breaking, which could have caused the bell to break free, according to Michaels. He contracted Roy Brooks Welding in Pleasant Gap to fabricate a new center bolt. Once the new bolt was complete, Michaels was able to finish the repair in time for Easter.
On the warm and sunny Easter morning, 16-year-old Timmy Merryman and his 15-year-old brother Anthony had the job of pulling the ropes to ring the bells. As the service started, the boy’s father, Tim Merryman, waited for Father William Walker to bless the bells and signal for them to be rung. Just after 11 a.m., Merryman received the signal and relayed it to the boys.
“Ring ‘em boys,” Merryman said.
With a few firm tugs of the ropes, the Merryman boys rang all three bells and the sound from the St. Laurence bell tower resounded through the streets once again.
“We’re so pleased with the work that was done on the bells and it’s just wonderful to hear them,” Walker said. “We hope they can ring in the community for many years to come.”