‘Homer rang the bell’


Every Sunday morning at Raymond United Methodist Church, Homer Caldwell, left, takes up the duty to ring the bell. Though he likes doing it on his own, it is hard work, so he sometimes gets help from people like his stepfather, Dick Sparks, right. He feels a sense of duty with ringing the church bell and he said it makes him feel happy.
(Photo submitted)
Do you know who rings the bells at Raymond United Methodist Church each Sunday?
It’s Homer Caldwell, who shows up to church each Sunday morning to ring the bell, and his bellringing is well-documented within the Journal-Tribune’s church section, with his signature phrase “Homer rang the bell” appearing in each Thursday edition. He’s been doing it for six to seven years, and he treats it like it’s his job.
“It makes me happy,” Caldwell said.
Recently, in the Nov. 16 edition of the Journal-Tribune, it was documented that Caldwell and the church celebrated the sixth anniversary of his baptism on Nov. 12. He’s a celebrated fixture of the church community, and his reputation started when he offered his services to the church.
Caldwell’s mother, Ginny Sparks, said he took the initiative to be the church bellringer when she asked the Rev. Doug Flinn why no one rang the bell. After Flinn suggested she could ring it, that’s when Caldwell stepped up to the duty.
“It’s his job and he loves doing it,” she said. “He loves his church, he loves the people out there and he knows they love him.”
Caldwell, 57, has Down syndrome, respiratory issues and anxiety problems, but those factors don’t stop him from ringing the bell and greeting churchgoers. He also makes sure the prayer cards and pencils are well stocked in the church pews.
He began as a homebody, staying at his parent’s house and cleaning up the place. Caldwell had attended a church in Marysville, but he and his parents switched to Raymond United Methodist Church because of the smaller size.
With his anxiety, he was shy at first, but he felt a calling to serve the people of the community when he offered to ring the bell.
“It’s the self-satisfaction that he’s doing something and that he has a job here in church (that makes him feel) like he has a place,” Sparks said. “He’s found a home, he’s found acceptance and he’s content.”
He takes his job seriously, making sure to not skip a Sunday to go to church. Though he needs help sometimes when ringing the heavy bell, he’s still strong enough to do it on his own sometimes.
At first, he was incredibly anxious around the people at church as he clung to his parents as closely as he could.
Sparks said she would recommend to people to pretend to “ignore” him as they entered the church. She said he would need to find his comfort zone first before approaching the exuberant churchgoers.
According to Sparks, when Flinn left the church years ago, Caldwell missed him greatly, but was able to be friendly to the other pastors who came to serve. When the Rev. Sara McSwords was brought on, he was able to accommodate to the change very well.
Since he offered to ring the bell, his approach to church has changed. He’s still reserved, but he started participating in other activities in the church. For a time, he was a part of the church choir, where he would communicate the messages of the songs to the audience with sign language.
Sparks said Caldwell is happy ringing the bell and serving his church and community. She said he’ll continue doing it, as he feels its his job.
“He wants to be there, but in the background,” she said. “He’s comfortable.”
The next time you find yourself at Raymond United Methodist Church for Sunday service, you’ll see Caldwell start it by ringing the bell. You can say “hello” to him, but be sure to take his anxiety into consideration, as he might not answer back the first time with new people.

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