I love enthusiasts. We met some last week: while on holiday we had a chance encounter with someone William had met only once before – we met him in the churchyard of the village church on Sunday morning, and Eoin was on his way to ring the bells. After a brief chat he invited us for dinner the following evening and then, later in the week, to go up the bell tower to view the bells and to see the view from the top of the tower.
On that day we also met Alan. He is the tower captain – in charge of looking after and ringing those bells, also of winding the clock twice a week and running flags up the flagpole. As Alan showed us round, it was clear how much love he had not only for his hobby of ringing, but for those bells and the building itself: at 75 he was bounding up and down the spiral staircases, surefootedly climbing through the framework containing the bells and negotiating his way through the narrow spaces like a twenty-year-old. He and Eoin showed us the techniques for ringing, let us have a go and would have spent longer just passing on their passion if we had had the time.
Love is attractive. Alan and Eoin love those bells and that centuries-old tradition of ringing to the glory of God. They want to see the tradition survive them, though they know that if younger people don’t take it up then it will not continue. They want to pass on their passion to others.
There’s a parallel with the gospel: the church has survived since Jesus because the people of God have passionately proclaimed their love of God to future generations. While the task of evangelism often seems difficult, when we are genuinely in love with Jesus and when we speak from our hearts of the love we feel, this is attractive to others, just as Alan and Eoin’s passion was attractive to us.
Not that we are taking up bell ringing, but if I had time and if we lived in a place like Dersingham, I might just be tempted.