I just came back from an amazing weekend in a little village on the outskirts of Roanne, between Lyon and Clermont Ferrand. Six nationalities were involved (a Brit, Turk and Dutchman in a van on their way to Shanghai, an American, a French girl, me the Australian and another British friend), and apart from the two who live there, the rest of us were somewhat hacked off with the church bells. The church, as expected, sits at the highest, most central spot of the quaint, walled village. The houses immediately around it are shrouded in flowers bursting with colour and life. But no amount of flowers or buildings can soften the bell at the top of the church from the wake-up call that it is at 7am on a Sunday morning.
Church bells are a great way of marking the time, and very handy for telling people in years gone by when to wake up, when to clock on, and when to clock off, along with when to come to church. But Sunday, of all days, is a day of rest even in the Christian faith, so does the church really need to wake everyone up on their only day off? I’m sure it’s the same in many other places, with church bells resounding on completely still and silent mornings, with just the sound of swearing through open windows immediately after the bells go off. No chance of it in this village: the bell resounds to match the hour not once, but twice, about thirty seconds apart, just in case it didn’t wake you up the first time. So at 10am, for example, you hear ‘donnnnggg donnnnggg donnnnggg’ ten times, then just as you’ve finished cursing the bell (is it good to curse a Christian entity?) and you think you might be able to nod off to sleep once more, off they go again. DONNNGGG! DONNNGGG! DONNNGGG! No chance of getting back to sleep now.
So, I have something to say to the powers-that-be at the churches around the world, and specifically, at this small village in France: technology. That’s right. Technology. It’s advanced to the point of wrist watches, alarm clocks, computers, mobile phones with alarms and the time, blackberries, iPhones — and the list goes on. And with all these extra things beeping and buzzing at us, can you please do us all a favour and stick a cork in it on the weekends. Thanks.