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Immanuel Lutheran Church bell to be rededicated

Staff Writer | October 25, 2023 5:09 PM

MOSES LAKE — Immanuel Lutheran Church’s bell will ring out again Sunday.

The bell has been out of commission for several years, said Pastor Walter Klockers. After extensive repairs, it’s ready to peal again. Immanuel Lutheran is unusual in having an actual physical bell, Klockers said; most churches these days either use electronic carillons or forgo the tradition altogether.

“I was surprised at the size of it,” Klockers said. “Thirty-six inches across and 700 pounds is quite a thing.”

Klockers’ son Ben, who has Down syndrome, is the church’s usual bell ringer, and has missed being able to carry out that duty, he said.

The bell has been repaired and will be ceremonially rededicated this Sunday, a day that is significant in several ways. Sunday is Reformation Sunday, commemorating Martin Luther’s departure from the Catholic Church in 1517 and the establishment of the denomination that carries his name. It’s also the 75th anniversary of Immanuel Lutheran Church’s founding in Moses Lake.

The event will also honor a longtime parishioner and minister, the Rev. Virginia Johnson-Krupa, who passed away earlier this year, Congregation President Mary Otey said.

“Her husband (Mike Krupa) was hoping to do something in memory of her, something that would be meaningful,” Otey said. “She also was an ordained Lutheran minister, and part of our congregation when she wasn't leading her own congregation. Obviously, we expected the bell repair to be quite costly. Thankfully, we were able to get a very reasonable quote from the companies that worked on it, and it was suggested that that may be an area where Mike could place his memorial funds.”

Krupa will ring the bell at its rededication, she said.

“Pastor Ginny will be missed, but she will be remembered every Sunday with the ringing of the bell prior to the weekly worship service,” Klockers wrote in a note to the Columbia Basin Herald.

Neither Klockers nor Otey was certain when the bell went out of use, but both agreed it was before the pandemic.

    At 700 pounds, the bell at Immanuel Lutheran Church required a crane to be taken in and out of the bell tower.

The bell was initially installed and dedicated Oct. 21, 1962, shortly after the building at 1020 S. A St., right next to McCosh Park, was built, according to a September 1962 Columbia Basin Herald article. It’s been housed all these years in a tower outside the church that’s open on two sides, leaving it exposed to the elements, which played a part in its deterioration.

“(A parishioner) told me it's not safe anymore to ring that thing because there's some parts that have worn thin,” Klockers said. “The rocker bearings were full of grease, contaminated by years of leaf debris. So they cleaned all of that out. The bearing housing was cracked and was welded back together. And the connection between the bell and the bell support was loose, causing it to shift when rung.”

“We've had numerous congregation members trying to find someone who could repair it,” Otey said. “Obviously, it's kind of a specialized area of expertise, needing a crane to remove it. And then fabrication that needed to be done to fix it as well.”

Fortunately, John Laughery, owner of Specialty Welding, Moses Lake, had experience with bell repair and was able to step up.

“The problem with one of these bells is that they are out in the weather,” Laughery said. “They've been exposed to a lot of different corrosive conditions. Plus, they're cast and when they're cast like that you end up with a lot of pre- and post-weld heat treatment so you don't get cracking. You have to preheat it with a torch, weld it, peen it, and then you have to control the cooldown. So I wrap it in blankets once I've had up to the temperature I need to be able to repair it.”

That process is necessary because of the metal that’s used, Laughery explained.

“With the shape, then you get into physics, because then the shape of it is what causes the resonation in the bell,” he said.

Laughery had to repair the clapper, the mounts that held the bell in the belfry and a flywheel, he said. He worked with Dennis Atnip, owner of Atnip Construction, to remove and replace the bell.

“Projects like this, they're fun,” Laughery said. “And not only that, but it's always good to be able to give back something to the communities that we work in.”

The bell will make its resonant return right before the 10 a.m. service Sunday, Klockers said. After the service, there will be a brunch, and a display of items from the church’s history will be available for viewing. An organization within the church, the Do-Day Ladies, will auction off a quilt that was specially made using material donated to the church, depicting both crosses and bells in honor of the occasion. Everybody is invited.

Otey has been a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church for 40 years, since she was a girl, she said, so the church – and its bell – mean a great deal to her.

    Immanuel Lutheran Church as it appeared in the Sept. 21, 1962 edition of the Columbia Basin Herald, about a month before the building was completed. The tower that houses the bell is now enclosed on two sides, but the other two are open to the elements.

“I was married in the church. My parents’ funerals were in the church. My children's baptisms, I mean, pretty much any meaningful family event is related to the church … Hopefully, the bell can serve as a reminder every week that we have a strong community of faith in the congregation, the constant that people can rely on.”

Joel Martin may be reached via email at