Does this church look familiar? It might, if you’ve ever visited Chicago. The Fourth Presbyterian Church resides on some prime real estate–it’s located on the Magnificent Mile across the street from the John Hancock Center. Consumerism on one side, Christianity on the other.
The bells at Fourth Presbyterian ring on the full and half hours from 9 a.m.to 5 p.m. on weekdays and for ten minutes at noon and 5 p.m. They also peal twenty minutes before services on Sunday morning and for funerals and weddings. With all the pedestrians in the area, I would wager that these are some of the most heard bells in Chicago, right up there with the digital bells of the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple.
What are these bells? Digital Schulmerich bells, dating from the early 2000s. John Sherer, organist and director of music, gave me the rundown. The church was built in 1914, but the tower was not strong enough to house real bells (sadly, a tale for many North American churches. Towers that could hold the weight of bells but not withstand the force of swinging them had chimes installed.)
In the 1950s, the first Schulmerich bell system was installed. It lasted until the early 2000s and was replaced by the spiffy current digital bell system in use today. It’s not automated music all the time, though. The digital bells can be played from two manual keyboards too.
Take a listen when you’re in the area doing some shopping!
Photo of Church attributed to CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=104399