From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Handbells apply Easter message to Columbine tragedy
18 Apr 2000 15:37:36
April 18, 2000 News media contact: Joretta Purdue ·(202)
By United Methodist News Service
On Easter Sunday, many churches use special music to celebrate the ultimate
triumph over death. This Easter, a new piece of music is being used in some
worship services. It was inspired by the casualties of the Columbine school
shootings that occurred a year earlier.
At North East (Md.) United Methodist Church, the handbell choir will perform
"Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace," a composition by Kevin R. McChesney of
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Betty Loveall, director of the Maryland church's 13-member handbell choir,
learned of the music through the Internet and is excited both by the beauty
of the piece and knowing that other choirs throughout the country are also
performing it in conjunction with the April 20 anniversary of the school
It was a year ago that two boys at Columbine High School opened fire on
classmates and faculty members, killing 13 people before taking their own
lives. The shootings stunned the community of Littleton, Colo., and
electrified the nation.
McChesney's composition is not sung, although it is based on the prayer of
St. Francis of Assisi, which begins "Lord make me an instrument of thy
peace. Where there is hate, let me sow love."
This composition begins and ends with the tolling of 15 chords - one for
each of the lives lost in the school that day. The composer has described
the composition as "a portrait of great joy" that comes of knowing there is
an answer to senseless violence.
"And that answer is to change hearts," McChesney said. "If we can find every
way possible to build up those around us, to treat them with respect and
kindness, to be a mirror for all that is fine and wonderful in them, we can
change hearts, one by one. We can each be an instrument of peace, until
there is no longer a place for man's violence against his fellow man."
McChesney is in the music business, but he has pledged the profits from the
sale of this composition to supporting anti-violence programs. In addition,
a set of handbells has been donated by the manufacturer to the Columbine
school district, which already has a handbell program.
When McChesney created the composition, he said, he hoped that as many as 50
choirs would play it in their own settings during the Easter season as a
kind of ring of choirs. Instead, he has had orders from at least 2,300
He estimates that between one-third and one-half of these are United
Methodist. "It's really an overwhelming percentage," he said.
Participants include choirs in all 50 states, according to McChesney, as
well as Canada, the Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, England, France,
Germany, Scotland, Italy, Australia, Japan and South Africa.
# # #
United Methodist News Service
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