On Tuesday afternoon, the sound of church bells reverberated across the field of Ocean Park, cutting through the still streets of downtown Oak Bluffs.

Hoisting the old bell back to the steeple. — Tim Johnson

The brassy B flat ring, which belongs to the Trinity Episcopal Church bell in downtown Oak Bluffs, had been a familiar sound every Sunday morning for 131 years. But the bell has been silent for the past five years after age and use sent it into a state of disrepair.

This week, after a multi-year process of fundraising and restoring, the bell made its way home to the shingled belfry atop the Oak Bluffs church.

“It was amazing,” said David Wilson, a sexton who oversees the grounds at the church, of the recent re-installation.

The bell first made its way to Trinity Church in 1889, seven years after the church was established, Mr. Wilson said. Originally cast by The Clinton H. Meneely Bell Company in Troy, N.Y., the bell is 34 inches tall and weighs 800 pounds.

The Oak Bluffs landmark is not the only one of its kind, however, Mr. Wilson said. The Meneely family, which operated two foundries in New York, produced about 65,000 bells — now spread across the country and the world — before both foundries closed in 1952.

Until it broke five years ago, the bell had not been removed from the church building since it was installed 131 years ago, Mr. Wilson said. The only other notable renovation to the bell was the installation of its tower after the hurricane of 1938 blew the previous bell-cote down.

The restoration process, though relatively simple, has been a lengthy journey, Mr. Wilson said. The process began five years ago, when, after a particularly enthusiastic tug during Sunday services, the bell came loose from its axle, falling at an angle.

Bell broke off its axle five years ago. It was restored at the Verdin foundry in Cincinnati. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“There was a wheel in there for the rope that was all crumbled and really deteriorated the iron supporting the bell. It was a big mess and obviously, a big issue.”

Efforts to restore the bell began soon after with an extensive four-year fundraising project to cover the $50,000 cost of repairs. Over time, the church was able to raise the necessary funds for the project, pulling together donations from church congregants, as well as a matching campaign by one benefactor, Mr. Wilson said.

But even after the donations were secured, the process was far from over.

In March, the church sent the bell to a foundry in Cincinnati called Verdin, but the onset of the pandemic shuttered the business for an extended lockdown period, pushing the foundry to stop receiving new orders.

“[The company] called and said it was shutting down at four o’clock and if the bell wasn’t there by the time the factory closed, there would be nobody to get it when it comes,” Mr. Wilson said.

After some bargaining, the foundry agreed to accept the bell, holding it in storage for the duration of the lockdown and into September, when work on the repairs finally began. According to Mr. Wilson, the repairs took only two weeks to complete and required only minor adjustments to the hanging mechanisms and support system around the bell. The church chose a new, stationary format for the bell, in hopes of easing the strain on the building.

Miraculously, even after so many years of salt air eroding the surface, the body of the bell remained intact without any need for repairs, Mr. Wilson said.

“The bell was absolutely in perfect condition…They actually cleaned it up a little bit so it’s a little shinier.”

Mr. Wilson expects that with the repairs, the updated bell can last at least another 100 years.

On Tuesday, as the cold wind whipped through the air, the bell was finally put back in place.

“We started at about one o’clock in the afternoon and the bell was safely tucked away back in about three-thirty. It was amazing.”

Since its re-installation, Mr. Wilson has given the bell a test run, but said the first official ringing won’t take place for a few months. He already promised that job to a congregant who helped with the restoration.

“I made a vow to someone who has been really important to this project, that that person will have the first crack at ringing the bell,” said Mr. Wilson, adding: “I would not touch it before that.”