Downtown church to ring in the holidays with new bells — thanks to mystery donor

Christmas has arrived early for one Ottawa church after it received three large carillon bells, all thanks to an anonymous donor.

St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church received 3 bells from anonymous donor

St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church received three carillon bells, each weighing more than 500 kilograms, from an anonymous donor. The church blessed the bells at a special ceremony Sunday morning. (Christine Maki/CBC)

An Ottawa church will be ringing in the holidays with three brand new carillon bells — all thanks to an anonymous donor.

The bells were given to St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church in the city's downtown. They're similar to the bells that ring out on Parliament Hill, just blocks away — but unlike the Centre Block bells, the church will use an electronic system to make them chime.

"We're just thrilled to have them," said Pastor Stan Johnstone, who blessed the bells Sunday before they're mounted later this week, just in time for Christmas Eve.

Even that's no easy feat, since one of the bells alone weighs more than 544 kilograms and will have to be lifted into place by a crane.

"They are a great beauty, both to look at and to hear," Johnstone said. "The beauty of the bell touches people in the depth of who they are."

Stan Johnstone, the pastor at St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church, blessed the carillon bells Sunday, December 17, 2017. A crane will install the bells in the church within the next week. (Christine Maki/CBC)

Bells travelled from France

The bells were cast in a foundry in France before being sent to the U.S. for finishing. They're inscribed with the church's name, the city, the Latin phrase "Soli Deo Gloria" — which means "Glory to God alone" — and a note that they've been given in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

A lot of work went into preparing for the bells, but it was all worthwhile, said Denis St. Onge, chair of the church's council.

St. Onge, who traveled to France to watch two of the bells being made, said that whenever he hears them he'll be reminded of the donation and what it means for the congregation.

All 3 have names

Each bell is named after a prominent person in the church's history, Johnstone said.

One is named after St. Peter, the church's namesake. Another is named after Martin Luther, while the third is named after composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who was also a member of the Lutheran church.

The bells arrived a couple of months behind schedule, however: they were supposed to be delivered at the end of October, widely believed to be the 500th anniversary of the date Martin Luther nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of a church in Germany.

Those theses disputed some of the Roman Catholic teachings and essentially started the Protestant Reformation.

Despite the delay, Johnstone said he's happy the carillon bells have arrived before the holidays — and thankful for the nameless donor's generosity.

"I think it was just their gracious feelings toward the congregation [as] this was something that would bring joy and music and proclamation to the congregation and to the community."

With files from Christine Maki