Hettinger Lutheran Church gets the blessing of bell choir set

Many believe that when one door closes, another one opens.

Bells (RGB)

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

Many believe that when one door closes, another one opens.

Recently the Hettinger Lutheran Church received a generous donation from another congregation that, quite literally, was forced to close the door.

Christ The King Lutheran Church was a small church in Arizona that had seen their attendance numbers dwindle over the past few years. So as a result they decided to combine worship music with Emmanuel Presbyterian Church. But after some time, Christ The King decided membership just wasn’t strong enough, and they made the tough choice to close their church.

At the time of the closure, Christ The King was in possession of a three-octave bell choir set, and needed to decide what to do with the instruments. Since they had developed such a close relationship with the Presbyterian church, they offered the set to them.

“We couldn’t believe it, because that’s a fantastic and wonderful, wonderful gift,” Stacie Anfinson said. Anfinson is Music Director at Emmanuel Presbyterian and is a native of Hettinger.

Since the church was already in possession of a bell set, they decided to bring it to the board to decide what the best solution would be, to make sure the set went to a good place and was put to good use.

Anfinson said many other Presbyterian churches were considered, but after careful review they discovered that those congregations were already in possession of bells.

So they were back to square one, but shortly there after Anfinson was inspired by a song, and that inspiration lead her to make a suggestion.

There’s a song that Anfinson performed called ‘Joy, My Heart is Ringing.’  A day after she rung that song, she was inspired to contact the Hettinger Church with the possible donation, she contacted community members the next day.

Hettinger Lutheran Church is Stacie’s home church, and it is where she grew up and where she and her husband exchanged wedding vows.

The church approached Stacie’s husband Peter to ask his opinion on Stacie’s home church receiving the bells, and not his own. Peter fully supported the idea and the church then reached out to the Hettinger Lutheran community.

Anfinson reached out to Norman and Bonnie Smith who brought it to the Hettinger church.

Hettinger Lutheran Secretary Pat Buckmier said it took a few meetings to talk about accepting the bells, they wanted to make sure there was  enough interest in starting a bell choir, because they didn’t want to accept the gift and have them sit in a closet.

“It took a couple of meetings to discuss it, we knew there was a big responsibility with a gift like this, and we wanted to make sure that we were kind of worthy of being able to put them to use,” Buckmier said.

She said that after asking around, enthusiasm began to grow, and now the people of the church are getting anxious to learn the music.

Anfinson said the bells are coming full circle and Christ The King church would be happy to know their going to Hettinger Lutheran Church.

“It was donated to us by a Lutheran church…this is a Lutheran church,” Anfinson said. “This church (Hettinger Lutheran) not only has wonderful mentors, good teachers and consummate musicians, but they have joy, and if we’re going to ring because of joy, this is the church that needs to contacted.”

Prior to receiving the bells, Buckmier said the church had investigated purchasing a set of bells, but the cost associated with the instruments was just too high, and the church couldn’t afford it. According to Anfinson, the bells being donated could be valued as high as $10,000.

The instruments came, caravan style, from Arizona in two vans and a sport utility vehicle. The copper bells make up only a portion of what was donated to Hettinger Lutheran. Also included were bell tables, bell gloves, mallets and a sheet music library compiled by Anfinson.

Right now the bell choir is going to be a big group effort, but Buckmier said that people are getting excited and anticipate the day they can get their hands on the bells.

“There’s a lot of people anxious to get going, but we need to start small and work our way up,” Buckmier said.

She also added that interest has been coming to her from people outside of the Hettinger Lutheran Church community.

To her knowledge, Buckmier said this might be the only three-octave bell choir set in the region. She is hoping that they will have enough practice time to begin performing for the church and community around the time of Advent.

As the church prepares to begin their journey with the bell choir, Emmanuel Presbyterian Church’s pastor Mary Saylor, herself a music enthusiast, had some words of wisdom:

“We do not doubt that there are needs which run deeper than words, deeper than even thought, and that some of them may be reached by the power of music,” and to “always remind yourself to let the love affair between your heart and your mind be the music of your life.”