An old church tradition is made new again in Lake Wylie, hoping to call to its congregation and the community.
On June 25, a Forest Oaks resident posted “Bells will be ringing!” saying how nice it is to hear the sound of church bells, and wherever the sound came from, it was a nice surprise. Several other area neighbors in Masons Crossing and River Hills chimed in saying “Beautiful” and “I hope it’s every week!”
Senior pastor Aaron Morgan of Redeeming Grace PCA, formerly Scherer Memorial Presbyterian Church, on Charlotte Highway said neighbors will indeed be hearing the bells toll and sounds of hymns often. He said it’s part of the Presbyterian church tradition.
“We’ve been hearing great reports,” he said of the community reaction since the first ringing June 25. “We ring the bells to doxology, a standard song of praise of God to thank him for all he’s done for us.”
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Morgan said the church has always had a physical bell in the tower, but it was not maintained.
“It sounded like a raccoon dying when we pulled the bell,” he said.
A church member tossed out the idea of ringing bells again, and the church elders were in unanimous support.
“So we didn’t install real bells, but electronic bells,” Morgan said. The bells can play hymns and songs to fit the season, from patriotic for July 4 to Christmas.
Thanks to an individual’s donation, it was installed June 22.
“I’d like it to celebrate him, but he’d rather the Lord be glorified through these bells rather than him,” Morgan said.
Neighbors will hear the bells weekly five minutes before the two Sunday services at 8:30 and 11 a.m. Then again after services at 12:30 p.m.
Morgan said the bells will be heard weekday as well at 9 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. with the sound of Westminster chimes followed by the number of rings for the hour of the day.
“It’s only about 30 seconds long for hymns, and then bell tolls are 20 to 30 seconds,” Morgan said. “We don’t want to be obnoxious.”
The bells will be silent on Saturdays.
The hope is to strike a chord with the community.
“A lot of people, from what we’ve heard, say it reminds me of my childhood,” Morgan said. “One of the thoughts is we would like the community to know we’re here. We’ve been here since 1884.”
Several businesses across the street said the bells are “extremely loud.”
“I have no objection to it, it’s just too loud, like turning your radio up full blast,” said Jim Samson, owner of LKW Motors.
Morgan said after a week in operation, they’re still making tweaks to the sound.
“I thought it was a wonderful idea, just a great way to hopefully bless the community with just a simple, little joyful reminder, just to go off a few times a day and remind people there’s a church here in the middle of the community,” said Associate Pastor Alan Wiley. “We want to be visible and I guess, audible, and hopefully people will be encouraged to come and talk to us.”
Also new for the church is its name, which was officially changed about a month ago.
“We wanted to reintroduce ourselves to the community,” Morgan said.
It’s not the first time the church has a new name. Originally planted by Bethel Presbyterian Church, about 5 miles away on Highway 557 and one of the oldest churches in the region, it was called Bethel Chapel. In 1959, the name was changed to honor longtime pastor, Dr. Tilden Scherer. Along with being difficult to pronounce, there was a “whole list of reasons” to change the name, Morgan said.
“That name, although we have great honor and reverence for him, most people don’t know who he is,” Morgan said. “People also confused us as being associated with funeral home next door with memorial in the name.”
The congregation members submitted name ideas, and a majority vote chose Redeeming Grace. Presbyterian was left out the name, Morgan said, because “we didn’t want people to pass us by assuming we were connected to the mainline denomination that we broke away from in 1973.” Presbyterian Church of the USA and Presbyterian Church in America differ for many reasons, including doctrinal standards.
“The Bible is true, inspired, inherent, infallible, authoritative, and we do not shy away from what we believe,” Morgan said. “The source of truth comes from God’s word not contemporary interpretation. We want to communicate we’re holding fast to what the Scripture said.”
The church has seen other significant changes recently, too. Its membership has grown to 200, so the second service was added about four months ago, Morgan said. The same year Morgan was named senior pastor after serving 10 years as associate pastor, the church added 4 acres to its 7 in 2015.
The church also is offering outreach programs including mom’s morning out, Bible studies and family-friendly movie nights.
“We’re in the early stages of figuring out if we want to expand our sanctuary, and using the facilities for growth we’re experiencing,” he said. “Our big picture is to grow to plant another church.”
Catherine Muccigrosso: 803-329-4069