Blessings of Ecumenical Ministry As Clear As a Bell!

The bell tower being installed.
The bell tower being installed.
By on January 1, 2023

Photos provided by the Rev’d Chad McCharles OSBCn, Priest & Minister, Neepawa United-Anglican Shared Ministry

For nearly three years, The Neepawa United-Anglican Shared Ministry (NUASM) has been working on a special project that has captured the interest, efforts, and hopes of Anglican and United parishioners alike, the resurrection of St. James’ Church bell!  When the parish of St. James’ sold their historic church on the corner of The Yellowhead highway and the main drag of Neepawa to facilitate their amalgamation with Neepawa United Church, one item that could not be left behind was their thousand-pound bronze bell.  

The people of NUASM were excited at the prospect of having the bell find a new home in their newly shared space, especially as no one wanted to lose the beautiful tones it had lent to the community sound scape for so many years.  However, no one was sure how or where to install St. James’ bell at the United Church.  The modern United Church building did not have a bell tower, or a bell for that matter, which meant there was no pre-existing structure to house or support the weight of the bell.  Until a plan could be formulated, and funding secured, in good prairie fashion the bell was temporarily stored at a parishioner’s farm in an old barn.

Given the excitement around this project, and relentless requests from the wider community as to when the sounds of the “Anglican bell” would return to Neepawa, it didn’t take long for Father Chad McCharles to sort out a solution.  In consultation with Tridekon, a local metal fabricating company that is famous for their crop-divider attachments for crop sprayers, a design was settled on that would honour the modern architectural design of the Neepawa United Church, as well as elevating the large bell to a height that would allow the clear ringing tones to reach far and wide. On the day of installation, the owner of Tridekon and a local construction company volunteered an entire day’s labour and their heavy equipment to hoist the 48-foot tower and bell into its new location at the main entrance of the Church.  This huge effort brought to fruition many months of hoping and planning through the efforts and generosity of the whole community.  

Father Chad shared “That is what truly warmed my heart in all of this, seeing how the community made this happen and willed it into being. This project truly symbolizes our Ecumenical Shared Ministry in a tangible, steel, concrete, and bronze kind of way! The bell is from the Anglican Church, the new home of the bell is on the United Church property, and the tower is a new creation erected by the shared vision of Christians who feel called to build something new in God’s name and for His glory.”

This project is about so much more than a church bell.  It is a sign of the new life in Christ that is rising up throughout the Diocese, wherever the faithful are willing to set aside their own ambitions for God’s will and way forward.  “That is the message we want to ring out as clear as a bell every time we pull on that rope to call people to worship.” Father Chad concluded.  Bishop William Cliff rang out that same message crystal clear on Sunday, October 16 when he was in Neepawa to rededicate the bell, reaffirming for the folks of NUASM his commitment to supporting their shared ministry as he too gave the bell a good ringing in its new tower!      


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