In the Campground in Oak Bluffs sits the Tabernacle and across from it is Trinity Methodist Church. Trinity Methodist was built in 1878, a year before the Tabernacle was erected. They have shared the same grassy circle known as Trinity Park for over 130 years.
I spent my childhood summers on Martha’s Vineyard and many of those summers I spent my mornings at Bible School in the Tabernacle. As was the custom a girl and a boy would be chosen each morning to walk from the Tabernacle to Trinity Church and ring the 8 o’clock bell. I waited almost all summer to hear my name called, I didn’t think it was ever going to happen. Finally it did and off across the lawn my partner and I scampered.
Inside the vestibule tied to the staircase railing was the thickest rope I’d ever seen. The rope was attached to the bell way, way, way up in the steeple and the longer we stood there and pondered the situation the higher up the bell seemed to get.
First though we had to untie the rope, it did not go well, we fumbled along and finally the rope was free from the railing. Time was ticking but neither of us were aware of how close to 8 o’clock we were coming.
Now all we had to do was pull the rope and the bell would ring and … well, that did not go well either. Neither one of us had enough weight to pull the rope hard enough to ring the bell. Rope burn was the least of our problems though as now we were sure it was after 8 o’clock and we’d failed our mission. With what strength we had left we both grabbed the rope, stood on one of the steps and jumped. Just as our teacher walked in the door to see what the problem was we heard… bong, bong, bong… it was ringing, the bell was peeling loud and strong, we had succeeded… we had only missed the 8 o’clock bell by… oh 10 or so minutes. Who would notice!
When I got home at lunch time the first thing my mother said was “the 8 o’clock bell was a bit late this morning, do you know who was ringing it this morning?” I said it had been me… she shook her head slowly and said nothing but I did notice a little smile. By the way, I was never asked to ring the bell again.