(RNS) — It’s not every day that the National Council of Churches and the National Association of Evangelicals agree.
But for the day of Rep. John Lewis’ funeral, they have joined with other religious groups in calling for houses of worship to ring bells or sound their celebration of his life in some other way.
Joshua DuBois, founder and CEO of Values Partnerships, said more than 500 congregations have committed to an online request to ring bells for 80 seconds — 1 second for each year of the congressman’s life — during Lewis’ funeral, set for 11 a.m. Eastern Thursday (July 30) in Atlanta.
Lewis, an ordained Baptist minister who chose to preach through his work as an activist and member of Congress, died on July 17 after receiving a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in December.
“We’re very excited that a diverse group has quickly come together to support — including the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Council of Churches!” DuBois said in an email message. “This includes Jewish congregations who will sound the Shofar rather than ring church bells.”
DuBois said the joint ringing is a volunteer effort of his consulting firm in partnership with Lewis’ family. Other groups supporting it include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College, and Network, a Catholic social justice organization.
“For congregations that do not have church bells, they will honor in other appropriate ways, including moments of silence, changing church signs, and more,” reads their request, posted at bellsforjohnlewis.com.
Lewis’ private funeral at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was once co-pastor, follows days of remembrances and honors, including his body lying in state in three capitols — Alabama’s, Georgia’s and the United States’ — after it was carried Sunday across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where he was beaten in 1965 by Alabama troopers as he attempted to march for voting rights.
“As a young man, John Lewis wrestled with a call to preach. But instead he became a sermon, and on a bridge in Selma, the living embodiment of the suffering servant of Isaiah,” said the Rev. Raphael Warnock, in a statement. “He was wounded for America’s transgressions, crushed for our iniquities and by his bruises we are healed. Today we weep. Tomorrow we continue the work of healing that was his life’s work.”