Church bells at the Hampton Bays Methodist Church could start ringing again in time for Easter Sunday, and for the first time in nearly half a century.The idea of the Montauk Highway parish having a church bell again is exciting for Jeffrey Catena of Hampton Bays who, as a child, was one of those in charge of manually pushing the button to ring the old bell, then located in the building’s steeple, nearly every weekend day at noon. The new bell, he explained, is computerized, boasts a selection of more than 4,000 songs and, perhaps most important, no longer requires someone to ring it.
The old church bell, which was previously removed, had not been used since the 1970s, according to Mr. Catena’s estimates.
Church officials purchased the new $10,000 bell earlier this month from the Verdin Company in Ohio, and estimated that it could be installed prior to next month’s Easter Sunday services.
To help finance the new bell, officials are offering members of the community—including those who are not current parishioners—the opportunity to purchase a song to be played at a specific time of the day and in memory of a loved one, or to mark a special celebration. For example, Mr. Catena, who will continue to oversee the bell’s operation, has already made a donation so the new bell will play Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” at 4 p.m. every April 14—his and his wife Nanette’s wedding anniversary. The love song was played during their first dance as a married couple 38 years ago.
“I think it’s a beautiful way to get involved,” said Mr. Catena, a music director at the parish on West Montauk Highway. “It can be very powerful.”
Others interested in having a song played at a specific time can make such a request for a suggested donation of $100 per song, according to Mr. Catena. Officials plan to dedicate a place on the church’s website, www.umc.org, so people can request songs and make donations. In the meantime, those interested can call the parish at 631-728-1660.
The new bell can also be programmed to play “Amazing Grace” at the end of a funeral, or a classic Methodist hymn on religious holidays. If the bell is installed before Sunday, April 16, Mr. Catena plans to play the hymn “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today” to help celebrate the church’s Easter service.
“Imagine being able to dedicate a song to a loved one on an anniversary or other special date,” wrote Ms. Catena, who is also a music director at the parish, in an email. “Or, have a song played after a wedding, a funeral, or a parade. There is organ, piano, and even bagpipe music available! The possibilities are endless.”
The idea to replace the old church bell occurred to church officials when they were repairing leaks in the church steeple last year. When the bell was operational, it would sound at noon every day.
The new computerized system, church officials said, will bring an old tradition back to life.
“It’s pretty cool,” Mr. Catena said. “We’re excited about it.”