December 23, 2020 | Part 1 | Part 2

“ I heard the bells on Christmas Day... Their old familiar Carols play.”

By now you are aware that we are in ‘lockdown’ and Bishop Michael Oulton, wanting to err on the side of caution, has decided that the Anglican churches in our Diocese will remain closed during this Christmas season. All of the churches in the Anglican dioceses in the Province of Ontario will be closed. My initial response to this news went like this: First we must be masked, then we cannot sing our beloved Carols at Christmas, now our faith communities won’t be able to gather to celebrate one of the most sacred feasts in the Christian tradition. What’s next? Santa Claus won’t be coming this Christmas! I must admit, it is a little difficult to find even a tiny bit of “good news” to share in light of this latest setback.


I think I may have found hope and a bit of joy which springs from the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ‘I heard the Bells on Christmas Day.’ Many of us may know the words to the first, comforting verse of this poem, but a little background on this work reveals that some of those verses were anything but cheery or hopeful. Longfellow penned his poem in 1863, mid way through the American Civil war. It is believed that this War claimed the lives of 620,000 soldiers. (more deaths than World War 1,2 and the Vietnam war combined or about twice the number of people in America who have died from the COVID 19 virus.) That is why in verse three of this poem he speaks of his utter despair on hearing Christmas bells during that war:

And in despair I buried my head.
There is no peace on earth I said.
The hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”


In the fifth and final verse, the persistent ringing of those Christmas bells has moved the poet from dark despair to the light of hope, Then rang those bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor God asleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Yes, it is true - we cannot sing Carols in church nor without a mask attend or proclaim the Word or preach nor even gather, now, but we can ring bells and so on Christmas Day we will. Both our churches, St. Mark’s, Bonarlaw and St. Paul’s, Marmora, possess a bell and a few parishioners: Paul Hutt, Timothy Bowden and Rob Vinnicombe will ring those bells ON CHRISTMAS DAY AT NOON. I have asked all three to “ring those bells more loud and deep” so that all who hear their sound will know that it is Christmas Day, a day of joy and a day to proclaim to those near and far, the good news of peace on earth and good will to all.

The blessings of this Christmas season

Canon Bob

Serving Christ’s mission through compassionate service, intelligent faith, and godly worship.