It was partway through a cool November when the parishioners at Trinity Lutheran Church heard the news.
Rumours the Great War was over had been floating around Vancouver since Nov. 7, 1918. So when word of the official declaration of peace made its way to Annieville, the congregation was ready.
Men and boys ran up the steps to the church and pulled the bell ropes. Out across the hill, the bells rang—one note higher, the other lower, creating a harmony to signal the end of the unprecedented conflict.
But it wasn’t loud enough. The men climbed up into the ceiling of the church, scaling the ledges built into the walls until they reached the two bells. With a metal rod, they hammered on the bells, and they banged so long and so hard the bigger bell cracked. And a cracked bell doesn’t ring.
In 1919, the church council sent a letter to the bell’s manufacturer, asking if there was any way to get the bell fixed without recasting it. There’s no evidence the manufacturer ever responded.
And so the bell sat in silence in the spire of Trinity Lutheran Church, too heavy to move and too broken to ring.
Now, nearly 100 years later, the bell might be ready to leave.
It can thank Diane Hansen for that.
Hansen has been a member of the Trinity Lutheran Church since 1992, and recently she’s taken over the heritage aspect of the church council. When the B.C. government announced a new heritage funding project in January, Hansen was there to spring into action.
The funding is designated for “legacy, culture and heritage projects in communities throughout the province” according to the government website, and that’s exactly what Hansen is hoping she can create with the broken bell.
The goal, Hansen said, is to bring the broken bell out of the church tower and create a heritage spot in front of the church for it. She’s looked at getting a bronze engraved plaque, outlining the history of the bell and its significance for the area.
She also wants to replace the bell with another of similar vintage, so two tones can call out from the church again.
“Ideally, we’d love to have the project completed in Canada’s 150th year of celebration,” she said. “This was a huge thing for the area, because they were celebrating the end of the war, and it just seems to fit in so well with the celebration of all of Canada.”
Hansen applied for funding through the B.C. grant program on Feb. 10, asking for $37,579. This would be enough to pay for the contractor to remove the bell from the tower and develop the heritage space for it, as well as purchase a replacement bell for the tower.
To qualify for the total amount, the church will need to raise around 20 per cent of that money on their own. Although there is a donation box in the church for the bell project, Hansen hasn’t approached the community as a whole.
“We do need support. This isn’t something you can put in your budget,” she said. “I mean, we need a furnace. So we can’t just say, ‘Well, we’re going to get that bell down and everybody here is going to be freezing.’”
If the grant is approved, the process of getting the 1,500-pound bell out of a tower won’t be easy.
First, scaffolding would have to be erected around the tower, likely destroying the flowerbeds beside the building. Then, a section of wall would have to be carefully taken out—since the church is a heritage building, the wood will need to be rebuilt into the wall. The bell would have to be removed, transferred to its heritage pad, and then the new bell craned in.
In total, Hansen said, the process would take about two weeks.
“We would love to see it as a community event when it does happen, that people can come and watch and see this,” she said. “Because this is going to be a once in a lifetime thing. You don’t see bells removed from heritage buildings.”
Hansen expects to hear back from the B.C. grant committee in late March. Until then, the cracked bell will wait in the church tower as it has done for 100 years, silent as its smaller partner rings out over Annieville.