About a dozen people gathered at Forest Hill United Methodist Church as lifelong church member Don Howard rang the bell of the 125-year-old church to celebrate the U.S. Constitution.“Church Bells Across America” invited churches nationwide to ring their bells at 4 p.m. Sept. 17 – Constitution Day – to celebrate the 226th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Howard, longtime bell-ringer at the church, rang Forest Hill’s bell more than 100 times on that day. Spectators also had the chance to ring it.The Daughters of the American Revolution started the tradition of celebrating the famous document in 1955. The group petitioned Congress to set aside Sept. 17-23 to observe Constitution Week annually. The resolution was adopted into law on Aug. 2, 1956, by President Dwight Eisenhower.Kay Crawford is Constitution Week chairman for the Cabarrus Black Boys Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. She contacted several area churches to participate, but Forest Hill was the only one that responded with a real, functioning bell. This was the first time the local chapter participated in the effort, Crawford said, and members plan to do it annually.Crawford said she believes it’s her duty as an American to appreciate the freedoms we have and to honor and inform people about how we got those freedoms.“This is my first year as chairman, so I wanted to find some bells, because I thought it sounded like the neatest thing to be a part of,” said Crawford. “This is only church that had a bell that I could find.… “They were not only willing but excited. At 4 p.m. each Sept. 17, church bells should be ringing, perhaps like they’d done 226 years ago.”Deloris Clodfelter serves as regent for the Cabarrus Black Boys Chapter. “It’s not just history, but it’s what our country’s based on,” Clodfelter said. With mass shootings becoming more commonplace, regulation of guns is being scrutinized in relation to the Second Amendment. So are citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights, after Edward Snowden’s leak of information about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program.“I don’t think our rights are being threatened, but I think we have to have these debates,” said Doug Crawford, Kay’s husband. He paraphrased Abraham Lincoln, saying public sentiment is everything and that the majority will rule from the standpoint of what’s best for our nation.While the Second Amendment lays a solid foundation, times have changed, Doug Crawford said. Guns have become more high-tech, more powerful and more accessible, but it’s all based on scale. “Things are a little out of scale – especially from the standpoint of weapons made for a war environment – but I believe in gun ownership,” he said. “I’m came out here to support the Constitution because … it gives us the rights to do the things we want to do.” Don Howard volunteered to ring the bell. He said the Constitution helps ensure his freedom to participate in such celebrations. “I’m sure the Constitution will withstand everything … ,” he said. “It never fails. It will last because the public wants it to last. A lot of smart men thought up these ideals.”Robert Burrage, whose family founded the Cabarrus Creamery, has been a Forest Hill UMC member since 1952. Six generations of Burrages have attended the church, he said, and Robert has maintained the bell for a couple of decades.“I’m the one that’s stupid enough to go up there,” said the 70-year-old. “But I want to be able to go up there as long as I can.”Bell cast in 1889The cast-bronze bell was made in 1889, said Burrage. It came from Baltimore and was placed in the original Forest Hill church building before being transferred to its current building in the late 1970s. It weighs an estimated 1,200 pounds – the famous Liberty Bell’s original weight was more than 2,000 pounds – and it’s about 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide at the opening.“Don (Howard) and I are both lifelong members, and our families are, so you just get attracted to stuff like this,” Burrage said. “The bell just fascinates me.”With regular maintenance, he said, it should last for several more years. He checks it about every four or five months and said the sound can be heard more than a mile away.“Luckily, I have not met any pigeons up there,” he said. “As you climb the last ladder, I always wonder if there will be anything up there to meet me.”Our forefathers founded this country based on God’s law, Burrage said, but no matter what’s written on paper, people are still going to do what they’re going to do.“Certainly the Constitution is important, and certainly it has served us well for 200-some years, but I’m not one for them to keep tinkering with it,” he said. “We just need to obey the laws we have. “We’ve got the right laws; God’s got a couple of laws in there, too. We’re not supposed to kill anybody,” Burrage said. “We’ve got legal laws and moral laws, and there are some things you just don’t do, no matter what the Constitution says.”
Friday, Sep. 20, 2013
Concord church members ring in Constitution Day
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