- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

HALLAM, Neb. (AP) - A village in southeast Nebraska is celebrating the return of a 122-year-old church bell after a destructive tornado hit the area in 2004.

The Congregational United Church of Christ in Hallam will hold a dedication ceremony on Sunday. During the event, the church will celebrate the bell and the hope it conveys to the 100-member congregation, said Peggy McClain, who’s served as the church’s pastor for nearly two years.

An EF4 twister left a 52-mile trail of destruction on May 22, 2004. The church, which was founded in 18933, was destroyed and had to be rebuilt, but the original bell was intact.

“Many years ago, we had another church building that was destroyed,” McClain said. “That bell was saved then, too. It’s been a picture of consistency with us. That’s the one thing we’ve always had.”

Several other items from the church also were salvaged, including a marble baptismal font, an altar table and stained glass windows. After sitting in storage for about a decade, the church’s bell tower was reconstructed and the bell was hung last spring, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1KG6mNe ) reported.

The dedication of the bell signals a new beginning for the church after reconstruction, McClain said.

“The fact that the bell has survived and our church has survived through everything it’s been through, it’s symbolic of God watching over us,” she said. “The building doesn’t matter — we are a congregation no matter what happens.

“I think erecting the bell tower and getting the bell up there makes them all feel a lot closer.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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