Our Peace Bell – Pealing for Peace Since 1990
The Inspiration and Vision
Nearly 35 years ago, Inga and Ernie von Boetticher, who were members of the Birch Cliff United Church congregation, had a vision. They had lived through WW II in Europe, experiencing the ravages of war first hand, and were visiting family in Europe at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in 1986. Passionate, both about the environment and the need for peace in the world, they founded the Birch Cliff Peace Forum and undertook a campaign to install a Peace Bell on the church roof.
In Ernie’s words, from a CBC radio broadcast (Open House, Jan. 8, 1989), “The vibrations of a bell, the resonance of it, creates a field of harmony. It’s like singing a song. If you think of bells being that way, they’re even more powerful. It’s a means of spreading a harmonious kind of a vibration. That is the beauty of bells. And we’re appealing to the peaceful side of humanity or the community.”
Making it Happen
The bell came from a school originally built in the 1800s, east of Taunton Road in Pickering. Almost $25,000 had to be raised to buy and restore the bell and its belfry and complete the installation. Raising the money took a few years, led by the herculean efforts of the von Boetticher family. Funds were raised through:
a $1,000 grant from The United Church of Canada’s Peacemaking Fund,
an Earth Day Move-a-thon for Peace,
fundraising through garage sales and sales of bumper stickers and peace dove pins,
A volunteer from the congregation, Fred Todkill, engaged an architect and a contractor and coordinated all the work needed to install the bell. Finally, on April 20, 1990, a cold and rainy day, the bell and the belfry were lifted by a crane and installed on a newly built platform on the church roof.
Earth Day gathering to ring hand bells to mark the day
Ringing for Peace
The hope of the Peace Forum was that the Peace Bell would be rung at noon each day to remind us all to envision a world where wars have ended and peace reigns. Beginning on Earth Day in 1990, a roster of volunteers began ringing the bell at noon each day. On September 18, 1990, the Peace Bell pealed for one minute to mark the United Nations “A Peal for Peace”. The pealing of the bell each day at noon continued for many years.
Ringing in Remembrance
On November 11, 1918, church bells rang across the country to signal the end of World War I. In 2018, to commemorate the centenary of that momentous day, The Royal Canadian Legion initiated a Bells of Peace initiative across Canada and asked our church to participate. On Sunday, November 11, 2018, at sunset, Legion and Church member Barry Moore rang our Peace Bell 100 times, at 5 second intervals, to remember all those (both military and civilian) who died in the “War to End All Wars” and all the wars the world has experienced since then, and to reflect on how we can bring about peace in our troubled world.
Ringing for the Fight Against COVID-19
In April 2020, church member Gail Barkic began ringing the bell at 7:30 p.m. each evening to show appreciation for the efforts of front-line workers and others in the battle against COVID-19. This led to a roster of bell ringers being set up and the daily bell ringing continued through the spring and summer. Members of the community joined the roster, and many people in our community let the church know how much they enjoyed hearing the bell ringing each evening.
Ringing for Peace
Now the circle is complete. Since Labour Day, the roster of bell ringers has once again begun ringing our Peace Bell at noon each day to remind us all to think about peace and join together to work for a peaceful world. So listen for the Peace Bell and, when you hear it pealing, think about how each of us can help to make the world a better and more peaceful place.
“Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”
Listen to the CBC interview with Ernie von Boetticher
Crane lifting bell to roof
Original schoolhouse location of bell
Bringing bell into church