The North Carolina Council of Churches is offering a modification to the typical National Day of Prayer, celebrated each year on the first Thursday of May. Borrowing an idea from residents around the world who call aloud from their balconies and rooftops across their neighborhoods and cities each evening, the Council invites churches and individuals to ring out their prayers at noon on May 7. Faith communities large and small, rural and urban, are invited to make 5 minutes of “Joyful Noise” at noon on May 7, as a witness to our belief that these bells and other summoning sounds will call us to worship together once again in the same spaces.
We know that bells have been used to call people to worship for centuries and while this initiative is directed primarily to churches, the Council invites all faith communities to join the “Joyful Noise” by employing their own traditional calling sounds, whether vocal or instrumental. Of course, we’d be pleased to have people of all faiths ringing bells as well.
Because all churches do not have bell towers or carillons, the Council suggests using any available bell—hand bells, organ bells, Sunday school bells—that someone is willing to ring. For individuals who want to join the “joyful noise,” the Council encourages everyone to come outside and ring whatever bell is in your home.
The sounds we create may be a harmony of noise in our urban areas with the bells and sounds of multiple faith traditions mingling with the bells and voices of individuals. In more rural areas, it may be the peal of a single church bell calling across the landscape. The Council wants people to hear in these sounds the promises of One who “hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4, KJV). We look forward with hope because the past has shown us what God’s future can be.
Much of what we are learning in these days are the very things the prophets and gospels have directed us toward throughout salvation history: care for the vulnerable; respect all workers; provide healing resources; spread the world’s wealth around more evenly. We didn’t need a virus to remind us of these basic principles, but because of this virus politicians and economists are echoing the sayings of Amos and Jesus. I’ve even heard some of them opine that our systems might need to change. May it be so!
In the meantime, make a joyful noise and let that noise reflect our hope that God’s justice will prevail.