"It's Great to Live in Sacred Space"
Press Release, June 19, 2000
Five exquisite bells produced by the Pyatkov Bell Foundry of Kamensk-Uralskii, a mining town in the Ural Mountains of Russia, are busily praising God at All-Merciful Saviour Monastery (ROCOR) on Vashon Island. The island is located in the Puget Sound, a thirty-five minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle, Washington.
Following Orthodoxy's thousand year old rite for the blessing of bells, Abbot Tryphon consecrated the bells after Divine Liturgy on Saturday, 20 May 2000.
The same foundry, although not the Pyatkov company which now inhabits it, actually produced the canons and bells for Admiral Bering and for Fort Ross, Russia's lonely outpost in California, 200 years ago.
Donated by islander Mark Williams in memory of his late wife Genevieve, the bells were installed just in time for Orthodox Pascha (Easter) the holiest feast of the Christian calendar.
The largest bell has an icon of the image of Christ "Made Without Hands" (i.e., imprinted on the Holy Shroud) on its side, and the words "Holy, Holy, Holy," inscribed around the bottom in English, Greek and Slavonic.
The bells were cast to ring C#, A, F#, E, and C#, respectively. Unlike European bells though, Russian bells are not fine-tuned on a lathe after being cast. "Orthodox theology is extremely interested in the value of each human person," explains John Burnett, Executive Manager of Expanding Edge LLC, the San Anselmo, California company which helped the monastery to acquire its bells, "and the tuning of our bells is a reflection of this personalist vision each bell is created in such a way that it has a unique, distinctive voice, just as each human person has. In fact they say you can no more forget the bells of the village you grew up in, than you can forget the voice of your own mother."
Islanders have been flocking to the monastery to see the bells since they arrived. One neighbor, after hearing the bells for the first time on Pascha, visited the monks the very next day. With tears in his eyes, he wrote out a check for one hundred dollars, thanking the monks for their presence on the island and their service of witness to the community. His wide-eyed little boy, who was with him, then reached into his pockets and handed the monks two big handfuls of change that he had withdrawn from his piggy bank.
"It's true the bells are a blessing to everybody," says Fr. Tryphon, abbot of the monastery.
The bells can be heard for quite a distance, and many people from all over the island have approached the monks at the island's post office, the grocery store, and elsewhere, commenting on their beauty and clear tones.
The monks even received a call by cell phone one day from the Captain of the 18th century replica tall ship, Lady Washington (showcased in the movie "Star Trek Generations"). The Captain wanted the monks to know that he had heard the bells and was commanding the ship's cannons to reply with the traditional salute.
The monks feel that their new bells contribute inestimably to the life of their fledgling monastery. Judging from the enthusiasm of their fellow Islanders, the feeling is shared by the wider community as well. As one villager put it, "It's great to live in sacred space."
The monks make their living by selling excellent coffee and tea. You can contact them directly at vashonmonks.com for info about their monastery, their bells, or about their mail order java.
Back to What People Are Saying in America.