By Jim Hook & Carrie Wolfe
Source: The Daily South Town - Date: December 22, 2002
A new challenge was handed to Lynn Betsanes after her Palos Hills church
received six new bronze bells from Russia. Someone would have to ring the bells, and the
Rev. Andrew Harrison of St. Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church wanted Betsanes' Hand
Maiden Ministry to do the honors today during 9:30 a.m. services.
The Hand Maiden Ministry is a group of school-age girls, including
Betsanes' daughters, 7-year old Joan and 5-year old Madeline. Initially, the job called for
Betsanes and the girls to scale two flights of stairs and two ladders before reaching the
bells. Climbing the ladder, Betsanes said, was a bit unnerving. "It was a little
intimidating," she said. "Especially with the platform heels some of the girls wear these
days. I was more than a little concerned about them on a ladder.
Lynn's husband, Greg Betsanes, and other church members recently devised
a pulley system that won't compromise the girls' choice in footwear or their fear of
heights. The new system, with a rope connected to each of the six bells, will be used
today for the first time when Lynn and the girls will debut their musical talents.
Betsanes and the group will ring the bells for several minutes before
the service begins. And they'll ring them three times during the consecration and a dozen
more times during the reading of the 12 articles of the Nicene creed. While there is a
certain pattern to follow during specific parts of the service, there are times when she
and the girls can use their own creativity to ring the bells, Betsanes said. "I'm a
hairdresser. Creativity is in my blood," she said. "The bells are played in a rhythm,
like drums.You just have to keep the rhythm. They have their own distinct sounds, almost
like they have their own personality."
Lynn and her daughters practiced on the bells Friday night and picked
out their favorite sounds. Harrison gave them impromptu lessons. "Put a little tension on
it, like this," he said. The girls followed, giggling when they played correctly.You're
doing good," Harrison said encouragingly.
After pounding out the beginning of a classical Christmas carol,
Madeline said she liked playing the bells "because I can sing 'Jingle Bells!'"
Each of the bells is named after a saint - Sts. Mary, Juliana, Luke,
Eugene, Andrew-John and Helen - and was purchased by a St. Luke parishioner, Harrison said.
"Juliana, she's very delicate," the girls' mother said of the smallest bell, which can only
be heard inside the church if the trap door to the bell tower is open.
The Betsanes have been members of the church, at 10700 S. Kean Ave.,
for three years. Lynn received a crash-course in bell-ringing earlier this year on a set
of loaned bells.While waiting for the new bells to arrive from Russia, the church received
a temporary set. A deacon from New Jersey showed Betsanes how to ring them.
Ornately decorated with icons of various saints, the bronze bells were
hung earlier this month in the new bell tower of the 100-year old church. Ranging in
weight from 13 pounds to 332 pounds, the bells have their own distinct sounds.
Ancient Chrtians used bells to summon people to worship, Harrison said.
But they were used for other purposes, too. At his former church in Canada, Harrison said
parishioners, many of whom lived on farms and worked in wheat fields, believed that
ringing the bells kept hailstorms and windstorms away from their crops. "The legend there
was that ringing bells chased storms away," he said. "One of the farmers told me that he
had actually seen storms break up over the church. That's why someone had to be in the
church ringing the bells when a storm approached."
The bells will be rung this week during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services that are
open to the public. On Christmas Eve, a holy supper will be held at 5 p.m., followed by a
Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. The church choir will sing Christmas carols at 8 p.m. A
Christmas service will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Readers who wish more information about the history, ringing and purchase of bells can reach the Blagovest Russian Bell Site thru this link.