Replacing handbells was the last thing on Rita Becker's mind as she watched flames destroy her church.

But Becker kept getting calls and cell phone text messages about the instruments from youths who are part of the handbell choirs she directs at Lazarus United Church of Christ in Lineboro, Md.

The church, which has members from Maryland and York County, was destroyed by fire Tuesday, Dec. 3. Multiple southern York County fire departments helped battle the blaze in Lineboro, Carroll County, just over the Maryland line.

The loss included about 40 handbells purchased 22 years ago, Becker said.

Keep playing: She initially canceled plans for a Dec. 9 youth hand bell choir performance at Lutheran Retirement Village at Utz Terrace in Hanover.

However, the day after the fire, Becker received a call from Bethlehem Steltz Reformed Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 5890 Steltz Road in Glen Rock.

Bethlehem Steltz had handbells it wasn't using and wanted to lend them to Lazarus UCC, which accepted the instruments.

As a result, the youngsters performed on Dec. 9.

"The bells are perfect," Becker said. "It's about the same amount we had and the same manufacturer. Our kids were so excited to get them. For them, the bells helps us stick together and keep moving forward. This will help them heal."

Lazarus UCC's two youth handbell choirs have a total of about 30 members from Maryland and York County, ranging from ages 5 to 20.

John Dorr Jr.


, pastor of Bethlehem Steltz, said church choir member Gary Steenwyk asked him if the church could lend the bells to Lazarus UCC.

After getting the go-ahead from other Bethlehem Steltz officials, the church contacted Lazarus.

Steenwyk could not be reached for comment.

Dorr said Bethlehem Steltz is thankful for the opportunity to "minister church to church" in efforts to help another congregation in need, especially its youths.

"I hope that the young people understand that even in the midst of tragedy, God already is at work, putting things in place to help them out," Dorr said.

Bell event: The bells also will be used by the Lazarus UCC adult hand bell choir during the church's worship services at 10:15 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. Sunday at Lineboro fire hall, 4224 Main St. in Lineboro, said Becker, who also directs that choir.

She said it would cost at least $20,000 to replace the bells, mallets, tables and other instrument-related items lost in the fire.

The handbell choirs also are planning an appreciation concert for Bethlehem Steltz in the spring, Becker said.

Using Bethlehem Steltz's bells helps the three handbell choirs' music ministry continue, as they take turns performing at least once every six weeks at their church, said the Rev. Sam Chamelin, Lazarus UCC's pastor.

"What we received from Bethlehem Steltz and the generosity and support from the entire community is overwhelming and extraordinary," he said. "The love we have received from the community is bigger than the tragedy."

-Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at

Upcoming Performance

Hear the handbells

The adult handbell choir of Lazarus United Church of Christ will perform during the church's worship services at 10:15 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. Sunday at Lineboro fire hall, 4224 Main St. in Lineboro, Md.

The choir will be using hand bells provided to the church by Bethlehem Steltz Reformed Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Glen Rock. Lazarus UCC lost its handbells in a fire Dec. 3 fire that destroyed its building.

For information about Sunday's services, call Lazarus UCC at (410) 374-1304.