I remember ringing the church bell
August 28, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary
of the March on Washington,
that strange hopeful opposite
to this month’s violent invasion.
Children from the elementary school
behind the church lined up
to “Let Freedom Ring,”
and pulled the rough old rope —
once and maybe more …
we stopped counting at fifty.
I remember when Orlando, Florida
called for a day of unity
and memorial June 12, 2017
the year after forty-nine queer people
were murdered at Pulse night club.
We rang the church bell,
for every name and promised
each time to really be
safe place and sanctuary.
And a simpler story,
one Easter a man came to church
after a year praying about
On the last day of his life
he said “thank you” and “good-bye,”
told us to believe in resurrection,
and rang the church bell.
So we come from tradition tonight,
ringing our bells,
for four hundred thousand dead
of the virus in our country,
as fitting for the eve of inauguration.
These bells have tongues,
but no words that can divide.
These bells will be remembered by children,
honor the most vulnerable,
affirm the challenge to death
in our faith and others,
and claim our belief that this will be
a new beginning.
(Tonight at 5:30 EST President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural committee will lead a national moment of unity remembering the over 400,000 people lost to coronavirus. The reflecting pool will be lit, cities nationwide will illuminate civic buildings and church bells will ring.)