By John Pierce
“Almighty and gracious God, You desire that Your people worship You in the beauty of holiness,” read church archivist Mary Etta Sanders from a litany of dedication.
Members of First Baptist Church of Dalton, Ga., assembled on the front lawn following Sunday morning worship, responded: “Let the beauty of the bell’s chiming remind us that You are making us beautiful in Jesus Christ.”
This is no ordinary bell. It has a history. And now it has a fresh face and new place of prominence — as a chiming reminder of perseverance of faith.
Cast in West Troy, N.Y., in 1858, the bell was a gift to the Northwest Georgia church from local Baptist leader Archibald Fitzgerald. Weighing 1,000 pounds, the bronze bell — beautiful in appearance and sound — was well received.
Steeples of three earlier sanctuaries housed the historic bell. But its existence was threatened — like most anything of usable material — when Union troops marched toward Dalton en route to Atlanta.
Alert church members sent the treasured bell southward to Macon, Ga., for safekeeping. The First Baptist Church of Christ placed it in the belfry for several years — before returning it to the Dalton congregation in 1872 when a new sanctuary was built after the war.
Last year, the Dalton congregation that dates back to 1847 sent the historic bell to Cincinnati for restoration. And on Sunday, May 3, a most beautiful spring day, the bell was dedicated in its new place of honor.
Its melodious sound rang again and again throughout the brief dedication ceremony — and for many years to come it will be a chiming reminder of faith that endures and hope beyond any one moment in time.