Anglican Church leaders know that a national tragedy needs immediate attention.
Last week bells at Anglican churches across Canada rang 1,181 times — once for each missing or murdered aboriginal woman.
“Churches used to do this to call attention to the town when there was an emergency,” Rev. Pilar Gateman said.
Churches in every community and every time zone in Canada were urged to ring the bell at 2 p.m. Wednesday in a show of solidarity.
With five time zones in the country, starting at the same time meant the bells rang out for 5 1/2 hours straight across Canada.
At Christ Church Anglican in Fort Macleod, a small group of volunteers took turns pulling the rope to ring the bell as other volunteers kept count.
“The hope is that it will draw some attention,” Rev. Gateman said. “The whole nation is calling out that all of us are interested in trying to find out what is going on.”
The first session of bell-ringing coincided with the release last week of the Truth And Reconciliation Report on Indian Residential Schools.
“The idea is we’re calling attention to this tragedy at the same time the report came out,” Rev. Gateman said.
People had the chance to put their signature to form letters addressed to Macleod MP John Barlow, urging the Conservative government to conduct an inquiry.
Fort Macleod residents are urged to join other volunteers at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10 and 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 17 to help ring the bell again.
“I’m hoping we get more and more people every week,” Rev. Gateman added.
Anglican Church leaders are also hopeful the bells will ring at the churches of other denominations.
Denise North Peigan was one of the volunteers who turned out Wednesday to ring the church bell.
“It means a lot,” North Peigan said, adding it was an honour to be invited to ring the church bell.
North Peigan is hopeful the ringing of the bells will draw attention to the issue, and prompt the federal government to conduct a national inquiry — something Prime Minister Stephen Harper has so far refused to do.
Kristi Edwards also volunteered to ring the bell on Wednesday, and encouraged others to follow suit on June 10 and June 17.
“It was very sobering,” Edwards said of ringing the bell and watching the total mount as it was recorded on a sheet of paper outside the church door.
The initiative is part of the Anglican Church’s 22 days of prayer and renewal marking the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
From May 31 to National Aboriginal Day on June 21, other initiatives include listening to the stories of residential school survivors; praying for survivors and others affected by residential schools; and sharing individual stories of learning and witness.