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16986A Russian Bell in Harbin

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  • stmitrophan
    Oct 1, 2012

      A Russian Bell in Harbin

      Posted on September 25, 2012 by Jo

      We spotted the bell in the tower from the street on Saturday as we walked around the church. It was locked up tight and looked like it had been locked up tight for decades. We trained our telephoto lenses on the bell, snapping at a distance, figuring that was as close as we were likely to get.

      We were wrong.

      By noon on Sunday, we, along with our new Russian friends were climbing up into the tower to see the bell.

      An American friend had introduced us to some Russians who worship at the church and know the man in charge. They agreed to meet us there on Sunday morning. When the services were done at 11:30, they set about trying to get permission to go up in the tower. Since they were the ones with a relationship to the leaders of the church, we were content to hang out off to the side and let them do the talking.

      It wasn't an easy task—convincing the man to let these strangers (Americans and Protestants, to boot) climb up to see the bell.

      After awhile our Russian friends called me in to make a final appeal, directly and in Chinese.

      I told him that I viewed the bell as a symbol of God's love for the Chinese Church and that I wanted to tell that story. Upon hearing that, he asked me to write down my contact information, then got out his keys and opened the door to the tower.

      Up we went!

      Even though the inscriptions on the bell were in Old Russian, our friends were able to tell us that it had been made in Moscow, and weighs 784kg. According to this website http://www.upp.gov.cn/upp_web/upp_en/c_en/c_20.htm , it was made in 1899. There are some differing stories as to what happened to the bell during the Cultural Revolution, which I'm still trying to sort out.

      Of course we were thrilled to have gotten up to see the bell, but our Russian friends felt it even more since it was THEIR cultural heritage we were glimpsing. They were also happy to meet a couple of nutty Americans who were interested in learning about and telling the story of that heritage.

      After seeing the bell, we all went out to lunch to celebrate. As we enjoyed a wonderful meal together — with Chinese as the common language among us — I couldn't help thinking that, given the unique circumstances of our seeing it, the message that this bell rings forth is the message from the great hymn "In Christ There is No East or West."

      In Christ there is no East or West,
      In Him no South or North;
      But one great fellowship of love
      Throughout the whole wide earth.

      In Him shall true hearts everywhere
      Their high communion find;
      His service is the golden cord,
      Close binding humankind.

      Join hands, then, members of the faith,
      Whatever your race may be!
      Who serves my Father as His child
      Is surely kin to me.

      In Christ now meet both East and West,
      In Him meet North and South;
      All Christly souls are one in Him
      Throughout the whole wide earth.

      I will save the story of the church itself for the next post.