Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

May 28, 2014

Churches set to mark D-Day anniversary with bell ringing

ASHLAND — As American soldiers set sail for the beaches at Normandy 70 years ago, church bells rang for 90 seconds nationwide and Ashland residents flocked to their churches to pray for the safety of loved ones involved in the invasion.

To mark the anniversary of the pivotal battle, and Ashland’s role in World War II, church belfries will once call to the community with bells ringing at noon on June 6. The bell ringing effort is being organized by Dan Bailey and the Alpha Omega Gamma chapter at Ashland Community and Technical College as part of the nationwide “Let Freedom Ring” observance. The bell ringing will also serve as a precursor for the 1944 walking Tour of Downtown Ashland, set for June 14.

Pastor John Street at Ashland’s First United Methodist Church, often called the Chocolate Church because of the color of the stones used to build the place, said the congregation quickly agreed to participate in the bell ringing. Street explained the church has two bells, one from each of the city’s Methodist churches in the days when congregations were still divided by the issue of slavery.

“This bell is from the north Ashland church, which was called the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the bell in the other bell-tower was from the Methodist Episcopal Church South,” he said, noting the bell for the “north” church was donated by a riverboat captain named Geiger. The bell from the old “north” church is still rung with the aid of a long rope, while the deeper-sounding bell from the old “south” church peals when activated by an electronic switch on the opposite side of the sanctuary.

In a story published by The Ashland Daily Independent on June 6, 1944, titled “City Kneels In Prayer At Altars,” the writer reported, “D-Day brought a spirit of deep religious supplication and entreaty to the city of Ashland with hundreds of men, women and children going to the churches of their choice to pray that their loved one might be spared.”

The story went on to report attendance at morning prayer sessions, including more than 30 at “South Ashland Methodist,” while also announcing times for evening prayers.

“Today — Americans pray for tomorrow’s victory which will bring religious freedom and personal safety to the world,” the 1944 story concluded.

Bailey said organizers hope “to encourage churches, cities and municipalities, and other groups to ‘Let Freedom Ring’ in observance of this important occasion 70 years ago.” Bailey also asks participants to report their involvement by contacting him at danny.bailey@kctcs.edu, or by calling (606) 326-2028.

Tickets for the tour are available at Highlands Museum and Discovery Center and The Lamp Post Cafe in Ashland.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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