By Neva Rae Fox

Ring church bells. Sing. Clang the bells inside or outside the house. Clap your hands. Bang pots and pans. Play a musical instrument. Chime doorbells. Hit sticks together. Make lots of noise.

The Diocese of Western North Carolina invites all to make as much noise as possible, in any way possible, at 10 am local time on Easter morning, April 12.

The movement is called Make A Joyful Noise, born as a result of the pandemic and inspired by actions in Italy.

“When we first came to the idea to suspend public workshop, it was a very hard decision for us,” the Rt. Rev. José A. McLoughlin, Bishop of Western North Carolina, explained. “We were thinking about Easter Week, and nobody wanted to do it, but we had to suspend services for the sake of the community.”

Just before the North Carolina governor issued shelter in place restrictions, Make A Joyful Noise emerged from a conversation between McLoughlin, canon to the ordinary Augusta Anderson, and communications director Virginia Taylor.

“We were lamenting that we weren’t going to worship together for Easter,” McLoughlin said.

“We had the challenge of social distance,” Taylor added.  “And we needed to abide by North Carolina’s Stay Home Stay Safe.”

Then Anderson remembered Italy.  “Earlier in March, we heard stories from Italy of neighbors singing together as a source of both comfort and inspiration to stay strong while they sheltered in place,” she explained. “Then I saw countless videos of musicians collaborating with each other sharing their gifts from their homes. In the spirit of all these stories and examples of encouragement, I thought that all of us could add to the wellspring of hope by ringing bells on Easter Sunday morning.”

An innovative way of celebrating Easter as a community was formed.

“We are staying within the confines of social distance,” Taylor said. “We want to be clear about this. We want to keep that sense of community even though we can’t see each other.”

Make A Joyful Noise, the bishop said, is “steeped in the understanding that as long as God is present, there is joy. We cannot surrender to fear or hopelessness or we will lose the joy. It is tough right now – we are isolated, there is a loss of jobs, there’s illness. It is too easy to fall into desperation. There needs to be joy.”

Other denominations in the area have expressed interest and look to participate in Make A Joyful Noise. “This isn’t something that is only for Episcopalians,” Taylor said. “This is something that all denominations of Christians can participate in.”

She added, “We really are celebrating in social distancing style!”

A YouTube video from the diocese helps explain the movement:

Taylor plans to prepare a follow up video illustrating people around the diocese or the country participating in the movement. Send the videos to her at vtaylor@diocesewnc.org; https://www.diocesewnc.org; #joyfulnoisediownc .

“In the quietness of our streets and in the quietness of our churches, the joyful noise will ring.”  McLoughlin concluded.  “We want soundwaves of hope to ring out.”