A North Knoxville church congregation, on the verge of giving up for good, is finding new hope in an old bell.
Shannondale Presbyterian Church, a small but determined congregation, is using signs, concerts, and fundraisers in an effort to save their 128-year-old bell tower.
"The bell is sort of like a symbol to the church," said Pastor Donald Grady. "The bell ringing means the church is open. If the bell doesn't ring, and the tower is falling down, then we're falling down on our job. We need to repair it to keep it going."
The bell and its tower are original to the church, built in 1886.
At times in its history, the church has seen dozens in the pews, Pastor Grady said. The building still stands proudly on Tazewell Pike.
But when you look a little closer, it's hard to miss the scars left by time. Like the building, the congregation has also dwindled over the years.
"When we came here in July of last year, there would be five, six,or seven people who would be here for a Sunday morning service," said Pastor Grady's wife, Alice. "There was talk they were going to close the church at the end of the year."
Grady, a technically retired pastor from First Presbyterian Church of Sevierville, accepted an invitation to preach on Sundays two years ago.
"I hate to see that things that once were so good fade away," he said.
His sermons started to generate more interest and drove both members and visitors to pitch in to cut expenses.
Volunteers in the community mow the lawn, clean the building, and Wednesday 10News found a Good Samaritan fixing the worn out sign.
"These things have just been happening. It's like God is in this," Pastor Grady said.
But the bell tower, full of rotting wood, was one problem only a professional could handle. There's a large hole in the ceiling above the bell tower that shows outsiders the disrepair inside. Four oak beams and the bell itself are not at risk. It's the pine holding it up at risk.
"The estimate the guy gave us to fix it was phenomenal. Very, very high. Much higher than we thought it would be," he said.
The small congregation was disappointed-- knowing it would be nearly impossible to pay for repairs on their own-- but they are determined.
They have put a bright, yellow sign in the church's yard saying, "Help Save the Bell Tower." They have also hosted a yard sale, a piano concert, and put out a donation jar.
"I was amazed by how many people in the community came by and made contributions and expressed how they like to hear it [the bell]," he said
"We had about 85 people here [at the piano concert.] That was so exciting. The excitement has been building. Because we think not only the church members but the community are behind us to do this repair on the bell tower," Alice Grady said.
The church is hosting a Senior Center Singers benefit concert on Sunday July 27th at 2:30 p.m. at the church.
If you would like to help, you can also mail donations to Shannondale Presbyterian Church at 4600 Tazewell Pike in Knoxville.