By Kara Witherow, Editor
Throughout downtown Douglas, Ga., the “bells will be ringing the glad, glad news.”
On Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 9, Douglas First United Methodist Church’s new carillon bell system was dedicated and commissioned.
The church’s first bell system, it was given to the church by Dr. Jane and Rev. Billy Kimbrel and their family in memory of Dr. Kimbrel’s late mother, Gwen Carver, a lifelong member of Douglas First UMC.
Generations of Dr. Kimbrel’s family have loved and appreciated music, and it was at Douglas First UMC that Kimbrel’s own love of music and musical talent were nurtured.
She learned to play the organ in Douglas First UMC’s sanctuary, practicing and rehearsing for hours as her mother sat patiently listening and sewing.
“She invested so much in music in my life, and to be able to give this back as a gift to the church and community and hear the bells play … is really special to us,” said Dr. Kimbrel, who serves as organist and Director of Music Ministries at Perry United Methodist Church. “She was not a musician, but she invested so much in music and has always been a huge supporter of music, so it’s a gift I think that will live on.”
Before Douglas First UMC’s carillon was installed there weren’t steeple bells or carillon anywhere in Douglas, so church leaders had to appeal to the city council to have it approved. After several efforts and assurances that it would be an asset to the city and not a nuisance, the carillon was approved.
A digital carillon installed by Chime Master, the system chimes the hour and plays on the half hour with a melody of hymns played before the half-hour chimes. It’s also hooked to the organ so the organist can play it, too.
“There’s excitement in the church and community,” said Rev. James Sapp, pastor of Douglas First UMC. “It will help the people in the community know the church is here. I think it will help give us some visibility and it will remind people of our Christian witness.”
While Douglas First UMC’s steeple wasn’t originally outfitted with bells, it seems to have been built with them in mind. Its height and tall windowpanes made for an easy installation, Dr. Kimbrel said.
She and her family hope the music that will come from the bells will be inspiring and serve as a reminder of God’s love.
“(My mother) loved music, and we thought it would be a gift not only to the church, but to the community,” she said. “We know from experiences in the churches we’ve served that people love the steeple bells. They’ll ride by on their lunch hour or sit outside near the bells and listen to the hymns play, so it really is an inspiration to the community.”
The congregation has warm, fond memories of Gwen Carver and is enthusiastic about the carillon, Rev. Sapp said.
“It is a very generous gift and (Jane’s) mother and grandmother would really enjoy it,” he said. “(The carillon) carries on the music heritage of Jane, her mother, and her grandmother.”