Exploring the history of the church’s silent bell tower

The bell tower chimed faithfully for decades but now remains silent.
(Photos courtesy of source)
The bell tower chimed faithfully for decades but now remains silent. (Photos courtesy of source)

Written by: Lindsay Beckwith

For decades, the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists’ bell tower chimed each hour, keeping students, faculty and residents on time campuswide. However, in recent years the ringing has gone silent.

Constructed in 1965, the bell tower stands beside the church, commonly referred to as the University Church. The analog clock chimed faithfully for many years but, according to Stephen Ruf, professor in the School of Journalism and Communication, required vigilant maintenance due to the looping tape, software and programming used to keep the bells ringing. The bell tower has been silent for over three years.

  Many attached sentimental value to the bell tower, and considered it a helpful reminder, while, according to Ruf, others near the campus boundary complained about the recurrent noise. 

“It has elicited love and annoyance,” stated Ruf. “Personally, I miss it.” 

According to Ruf, motions were made to limit the chiming, which could be heard from a mile away, to daytime hours only. 

Charles Fleming, the university’s former vice president of Finance, is attributed with donating the bell tower and its electric speakers. 

“I think the bell tower was appreciated by the student body because they had hymns playing on it,” said Rolland Ruf, a retired pastor of the Collegedale Church and father to Stephen Ruf. 

When the bell tower was in working condition, a collection of hymns could be heard playing before church on special bells within the tower. The hymns also played in the evening just before sundown. 

In March 2019, the bell tower’s dysfunction was confirmed by an electrician.

“There is a wire broken somewhere under the parking lot,” said Church Administrator Jay Cole. 

The underground wires connecting the bell tower to the church were snapped, as reported by Cole, rendering the software used to maintain the tower powerless. Jay Cole’s speculations as to why the wires snapped include repaving the church parking lot or possible water damage.

Today, the bell tower stands inoperative without little hope of being fixed, according to Cole.

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