St. Luke’s Anglican church on Nassau Street in downtown Winnipeg won’t be ignored. This summer the church has started ringing the bell in their stubby tower. It is now an aural chronometer for the neighbourhood.
By helping us tell the time, the bells harken back to another age before wrist watches, cell phones and computers. It is possible that their clock rolls back to when church was more central to the community, when it was fitting that this spiritual hub continually reminded us that time was passing and was short.
St. Luke’s has an audible track record in this part of the city. Every Sunday morning it torments the sleepy with several minutes of constant clanging. It is the same church that periodically trains new bell ringers in the off-season. In May you might hear repeated – and poorly paced – versions of basic Christmas carols or a stuttering hymn in mid-afternoon on a Wednesday in October.
But today’s new and welcome dings and dongs are sounding out four times an hour. Best of all, in an age when time is everywhere synchronized through the internet to some chronometer in the sky, the church bell rings two minutes late. The 3pm chime sounds about 3:02; the 9:45 marker actually rumbles into life at 9:47. Perhaps through such tardiness the church reminds us that all time is relative. The way it measures time is different from the ways we measure it when we bow to the gods of efficiency and acquisition.
The bells of St. Luke’s have names: Love, Joy, Peace, Long Suffering, Gentleness, Goodness and Meekness. And as they tune our few city blocks in their key of E-flat they make us mindful and rooted in the eternity of the present.