You may remember that in 2013 eight new bells were installed at Notre Dame de Paris, and they were rung for the first time on 23 March, the eve of Palm Sunday. No doubt they cost a fortune, but it was deemed worth it to celebrate that iconic cathedral's 850th birthday. Apart from one - Emmanuel, the great tenor - the original bells had been melted down to make cannons during the French Revolution, and four substitutes installed in the nineteenth century were of poor quality metal and couldn't be harmonised with the remaining tenor bell.
I happened to be watching the news when the bells appeared on my TV screen, lined up in gleaming splendour all down Notre Dame's nave, and I leapt up exclaiming loudly. I felt a positively proprietorial pride because these eight bells had been made in the foundry at Villedieu-les-Poeles (literally, God's town of the pans), which is about a fifteen minute drive from our place in France, and somewhere we know well and have visited often.
Recently we went with friends on a tour of the bell foundry (there are two in France, but the other one, at Annecy, is not open to the public) and were once more struck by the emergence of huge, heavy, brilliant and loud bells from an old technology that includes goat hair, mud and horse manure.
I got to thinking about the use of church bells, and wondered if I could make some connection with writing, and of course there is one that comes to mind: if not exactly calling the faithful to prayer, it could be argued that our writing is a call of some kind, whether we write overtly Christian works or not; our Christian worldview leaks on to the page in any number of ways, some of them unconscious. And bells have traditionally been rung for purposes other than that of announcing the imminence of a service: the joyful sound of wedding bells, the muted dong for a funeral, and national rejoicing at the end of wars, for example.
I imagine each of us writes for many different reasons and with many different purposes: to entertain, to amuse, to inform, to provoke, to challenge, maybe, but perhaps above all to communicate. For myself, I hope to write stories that in some manner resonate, even harmonise, or to stretch the musical analogy to its limits, strike a chord, in another human soul. In the words of Frances Ridley Havergal in the rather pious Victorian hymn, '...and wing my words, that they may reach The hidden depths of many a heart.' Which rather makes the point that we may strive to do our best, but the outcome is God's.
Sue Russell writing as S.L.Russell has published five novels from a Christian viewpoint: Leviathan with a Fish-hook (2009), The Monster Behemoth (2010), The Land of Nimrod (2011), A Shed in a Cucumber Field (2014), and An Iron Yoke (2016.) A sixth, A Vision of Locusts, published by Instant Apostle, is due out in September 2017.