You might hear bells ringing at several locations in Greenwood at an unusual time on Nov. 17. Churches across the area and nation are being encouraged to ring their bells at 11:47 a.m. that day to celebrate the opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington.
Patti Gagstetter, of Ninety Six, read about this event on The Museum of the Bible Facebook page. “I have followed The Museum of the Bible on Facebook for about six months,” Gagstetter said. “Each day I learn a little bit more about the exhibits and their importance.”
“This is something I could do,” Gagstetter said of organizing the bell-ringing locally.
It was not as easy as she thought it would be. While Greenwood has a large number of churches of every denomination, it was an overwhelming task to reach out to all of them, she said. She found out that many churches in Greenwood and Ninety Six no longer have working bells.
Connie Maxwell Baptist Church and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Greenwood have working bells and agreed to participate.
In 2013, a traveling exhibit called “Passages,” which was developed and funded by the founders of Hobby Lobby, came to Charlotte, North Carolina. Gagstetter and her husband spent about four hours exploring and absorbing the content, which included ancient biblical manuscripts, Jewish texts, Torah scrolls, Dead Sea scroll fragments and Bible manuscripts from the 1400s.
“In addition, history was made to come alive through their visual presentations,” Gagstetter said.
One visual presentation was staged in a medieval city, between two homes, with one woman baking and another woman washing clothes. The women discussed whether they would purchase a copy of the first Bible in English and take the chance of being executed for owning a banned book.
“Walking a little farther, we watched prominent Reformation theologians debate and defend their reasons for incorporating certain beliefs into each of their Protestant sects,” Gagstetter said.
She hoped the experience would be available to more people, and now it is with the opening of the museum in Washington. The museum is an eight-story, 430,000-square-foot building three blocks from the U.S. Capitol. It will house thousands of religious artifacts, but will also feature live-action displays, a biblical garden, a world-class theater for religious Broadway shows such as “Les Miserables,” and a restaurant.
“I feel strongly that this is an opportunity to honor God and to bring Him back into prominence,” Gagstetter said. “Visitors to the museum will have the opportunity to experience fully what was so important to the Founding Fathers — freedom of religion.
“We can participate here in the greater-Greenwood area by coming to one of the locations where bells will be rung, or ring a bell or silently say a prayer wherever you are on Nov. 17 at 11:17 a.m.,” Gagstetter said.
For information on the Museum of the Bible, visit museumofthebible.org.