Worship service starts with the first strike of the church bell
Saint John of Kronstadt
This latest acquisition is the eighth active bell at the Convent. Its measured strikes bring to the faithful the good news about the start of religious offices, including prayer services, church feast days, and the sacraments of the Eucharist, and the scripture readings.
For many centuries, church bells have been acquired with donations from the faithful. The story of the last church bell starts from the 20th anniversary of the Convent's Sunday school when the students' parents decided to donate towards its acquisition.
Nun Galina, who is in charge of the school explains: "The parents of our Sunday school students wanted them to have a memory of the school. When the box for donations towards the acquisition of the bell was put up, many made contributions. It was also decided to bake cakes and biscuits to distribute among the guests of our church feasts in exchange for a donation. This began our fund-raising effort which we gave the title "Messenger". We also brought onboard several private bakeries in Minsk, who agreed willingly to contribute to the good cause. We also got a good response from the people.
The parents of our Sunday school students worked very hard to make enough products for the fund-raising and stood behind the stands in national costumes to sell them. The first donations began to stream in.
Bells are very expensive, and the proceeds that we had received at that point were insufficient. This is when we were reminded that the Sunday school is not some isolated unit, but a part of the large monastic family, much like a branch growing out of the trunk of a large tree. Workers of the monastic workshops and the parishioners chimed in. To raise the remaining funds, we passed the donation box around on Sundays.
Our donors are people of different means. Some were able to donate more, and we have placed the icons of their guardian angels on the bell. Others donated less. As I was sorting through the contents of the donation box, I came across coins as small as one and five Kopecks. Some had donated their last money, like the poor widow from the Scripture.
The bell was ordered from a foundry mill in Yaroslavl Oblast of Russia. The bell is one metre of diameter and height and weighs half a ton. Initially, it was planned to consecrate the bell on the feast day of the Holy Myrrh Bearers, which coincides with the closure of the Sunday school for the summer. This year, however, was different from others, and the Sunday school closed after the Paschal matinee. The bell was consecrated several months later, on the feast day of the Convent's patron saint Elizabeth Romanov, whose image was placed on the bell along with the images of the Saints Hope, Faith, Love and their mother Sofia.
Nun Galina explains: "On the day of the consecration, the Convent's spiritual father Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok was the first person to strike the bell. A student of the Sunday school was the next. This symbolises the continuity of the generations of the faithful, and the permanence of our faith. It gives us the confidence that the Orthodox faith will live on, and today's children will follow in our footsteps. Priest Rodion Alkhovik used to go to the Convent's Sunday school, and Oleg Kovalenko, another alumnus of the school, was recently ordained as a deacon. The Convent was built to last, and its founders already have a good succession.
Let me thank the parents, students, alumni and teachers of the Sunday school and all of our parishioners for their help and donations towards the acquisition of the bell, the messenger of the good news of our faith and of our continued ministry. Each strike of a bell sends a prayer for all those who had contributed towards this good cause."
Written by Darya Goncharova
Photos by Maxim Chernogolov and Maxim Dudarev
The patron saint of the church, Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco is known for his ministry among people with mental illness and disability.