Decatur churches to toll bells 200 times to honor U.S. lives lost to COVID

More than a dozen churches around Decatur will toll their bells 200 times on Sunday in remembrance of those who have died from COVID-19.

Last month, the United States topped 200,000 deaths related to the virus, a somber milestone in the pandemic that has killed or sickened millions across the world.

“There are 200,000 families across our nation right now who have lost loved ones. Many were not able to go to the hospital to be with their loved one when they died. It’s awfully easy to skim by and forget that this is a national tragedy,” said the Rev. David Jordan, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Decatur. He said the churches will start tolling the bells at noon.

ExploreCoronavirus: Remembering the victims

Jordan said there will be a 10-second pause before rings. That — and other things — may vary by church. Some churches have bells; other use carillon instruments.

The idea caught fire after Jordan mentioned what his church planned to do this Sunday on a Zoom video conferencing call with other pastors from various denominations. The idea was the brainchild of member Eddie Campbell.

In cities like Charlotte and Philadelphia, churches have held similar remembrances.

Jordan said as word spread, he heard from other faith groups that want to come and stand on the church’s lawn, including Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and representatives of the Baha’i tradition.

Those who come will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“I think people just need a way to express our collective grief and try to find some kind of unity in this time of divisiveness, anger and lack of respect we’re showing each other. This is an opportunity to provide some unity and to remember," said Jordan.

He said his church, which is located at 308 Clairmont Ave., will provide hand bells to people who come by that day.

Since the pandemic began to spread, services have been virtual at First Baptist Decatur, said Jordan, who said he prerecords his message.

He said neither the church — nor his family — has escaped COVID-19. He said several congregants have lost relatives, and his wife, a hospital chaplain, lost her uncle, a World War II veteran, to the pandemic.

In July, the church rang its bell 80 times to honor Congressman John Lewis. Lewis was 80 when he died after a battle with cancer.

Jordan said the church received phone calls and emails of support for the act.

He said people stopped and got out of their cars and stood with their hands over their hearts.

Many of the churches participating on Sunday worked together this summer as protests erupted around the nation to release a pastoral letter of “confession” for the church’s failure to address systemic racism in the city.

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