About Our History

In 1995, at a time of transition for First Church of Bethlehem, the Handbell Choirs of First Church of Bethlehem began with thirty-six members learning the art of handbell ringing in three choirs. Originally organized to ring in worship services, the choirs soon began to receive invitations to ring at other churches, local elderly housing facilities, nursing homes, and for the Christmas Town Festival, a local town-wide event. By 1997, the choirs were participating in the AGEHR Area 1 Handbell Festival and Conference and performing in venues around New England and New York.

From early in its history, our organization sought to engage people in participatory music and to educate the public in the art of handbell ringing and the history of sacred and secular music.

Beginning in 2001, funding for the Handbell Choirs became completely independent of the church’s budget through contributions, grants, and fund raising.

As with many mainline churches, the First Church of Bethlehem began to shrink in membership after the turn of the millennium. At the same time, the Handbell Choirs continued to thrive. In 2011, at the recommendation of the church council and with the support of the congregation, the Handbell Choirs began the process of separating from the church and forming a nonprofit community music organization.

The members of Chime In! Music With a Mission, Inc. held an organizational meeting on September 18, 2011, and completed incorporation in the State of Connecticut as a nonprofit corporation on October 31, 2011. On August 20, 2012, the corporation received federal tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The relationship with First Church of Bethlehem will continue, in part. The handbell choirs will no longer be an organization of the church or a regular part of worship, though ringers may occasionally ring in worship services and for other special services. The Church has granted Chime In! Music With a Mission use of the church facilities for rehearsals and performances and for storage of the instruments and equipment.

Many of the activities that have been ongoing for many years under the Handbell Choirs of First Church of Bethlehem are continuing under Chime In! Music With a Mission. Many newly designed activities have been planned by Chime In! Music With a Mission. The Board of Directors and Members are also planning to help bring into existence new musical groups that will engage the greater community in participatory music of many styles.

Music, by its nature, involves people in a process that leads toward sharing that music with others. At this time, the organization predominantly engages in handbell music and a natural way to share our music is through concerts. The Board of Directors of Chime In! Music With a Mission strives to provide concert opportunities that are free and open to the public.