A Meditation Written by
The Rev. Joseph C. Alsay
on the Occasion of the
Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry & Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma
2021 Day of Reflection
“Let Freedom Ring”
When I was a kid in school, our music teacher taught us a song written by Trini Lopez in the 60’s entitled “If I had a Hammer.” The lyrics were quite simple “If I had a hammer. I’d hammer in the morning. I’d hammer in the evening. All over this land. I’d hammer out danger. I’d hammer out a warning. I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.”
Then the second verse substituted the word “hammer” for “bell” and the third verse substituted the word “bell” for “song.”
Finally, the song stated, “Well, I’ve got a hammer And I’ve got a bell And I’ve got a song to sing All over this land. It’s the hammer of justice. It’s the bell of freedom. It’s the song about love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.”
We are constantly surrounded by the sight, sound and effect of bells.
Think about, when someone arrives at your home, walks up to your door, they immediately look around for that conspicuous button and then without much thought, reach their hand out to ring the door_ _ _. Or what about when it’s been a long day at work and you just want to go home relax, forget about the pass eight hours and then out of nowhere the kids begin to hound and hassle you that they are famished beyond belief and you don’t have the strength and energy to prepare a five-course meal for the crew and say to yourself “Where I am ever going to find something to feed this ravenous bunch?” Then you realize that a mile and half down the street is your salvation. “Hey gang, let’s all go to Taco _ _ _.” Ah yes, saved by the bell.
From time in memorial and yes, to this very day, the sound of bells have been used in a vast variety of faith communities around the world, to call the faithful to worship the Divine. It matters not if the bells are rung in Tibetan monasteries, or from cathedral spires. The sound of the bell reminds us in the midst of our hectic and busy lives to stop and if just for a moment to pray; to help us to rejoice at momentous events like weddings, baptisms, and Feast days. The sound calls us to mourn for the souls of the departed at the end of a burial rite, and help us realize how fleeting life is and to ponder the immortal words, “For whom does the bell toll?”
Indeed, we are constantly surrounded by the sight, sound and effect of bells. Bells both great and small From London’s Big Ben to the Liberty Bell in our own fair land.
On this Day of Reflection in which we seek to engage in the august and momentous task of letting freedom ring one cannot help but flip through the annals of time and recount the story of the Liberty Bell.
History tells us that the Liberty Bell’s existence has not been absent of tragedy. The bell was commissioned in 1751 and arrived at what is known as Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1752. It was soon after that, due to the poor mixture of the metals that the bell cracked for the first time during a test ringing. The bell had to subsequently be recast two more times before a short-lived success occurred. It was on July 8th 1776, the bell rung out in celebration at the first reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Interestingly enough in 1830, the bell was dubbed the “Liberty Bell” due to the fact that it was the chosen symbol of the abolitionists of that time.
Yet, within 16 years of the naming the “Liberty Bell” it cracked yet again. Never to repaired to this very day.
How symbolic, that symbol of American freedom developed an unrepairable crack in it. That crack is so symbolic not only because rendered the bell unplayable; not only because it bespeaks of the promise of freedom, life and liberty not realized for millions; but it also adequately depicts who we are as a nation and people. Dare I say, the cracked Liberty Bell “rings” of our human condition- - -cracked, flawed, and sinful.
That historic bell cracked due to the fact that there was a poor mixture of alloys. I would submit to you that maybe the sonorous sounds of religious freedom still fail to ring true for every person in our land; due to the fact that the amalgamation of hatred, prejudice and pride is still boiling in the “foundry of intolerance” and daily casts “bells of bigotry” to be rung by those taut a message of exclusivism.
But my beloved siblings, the good news is that each and every time we rang our bells this evening, we created cacophonous sound waves of love, acceptance and unity that traveled across this great country of ours. Though we may no longer hear them, due to their make-up, those sound waves have a way of affecting, if only in subtle ways everything and everybody they contact on this planet.
Today, through our bell-ringing we created harmonies of healing; rang out reconciliation between races and religions offered a peal of peace among all people of goodwill.
Magnificent music, that begins to bring into reality the words of that iconic speech deliver by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28th, 1963.
There he said, “This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, ‘My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So, let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
~Fr. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.