Returning to Service Ringing [UPDATED 4 July]

Last week the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers announced that discussions to allow a return to ringing were well underway with the Church of England. These discussions have resulted in guidance being issued by the Central Council that will help towers in Sussex to prepare for the resumption of ringing.

The guidance documents from the Central Council can be found here ( [UPDATE 4 July] The CC have published a list of Frequently Asked Questions (and answers!)

When ringing returns it will be a cautious and limited return to service ringing. It won’t be all of the bells and it won’t be all of the ringers. It’ll be ringing, but not as we know it! The Church of England has now issued official guidance for the resumption of services from 4th July. This includes a statement (page 9) that bellringing is permitted, subject to the CCCBR guidance. Please bear in mind that some churches may not restart services for some time yet. There are a number of important things that ringers must do before a return to ringing:

  • Please read the Central Council guidance documents carefully. These will allow us to get back to ringing safely and help ensure that it is seen as part of the return to worship within our churches.
  • Tower Captains should contact their parish priest and make sure that a specific risk assessment, with regards to the tower and ringing, is included as part of the overall risk assessment that all churches are required to produce. Guidance on undertaking a risk assessment for ringing and towers is included in the Central Council guidance documents. Do not undertake the inspection or risk assessment alone and ensure that when undertaking these social distancing and hand hygiene advice are followed.
  • As well as making sure the bell chamber is inspected and the bells are safe to ring, undertake a detailed set of measurements in the tower so you know precisely how closely together the ropes fall. Also take the opportunity to tidy the ringing chamber to minimise clutter, so there are fewer surfaces for the virus to rest on.
  • Contact your band if you have lost touch during the period of lockdown. When ringing restarts each piece of ringing will need to be planned carefully, with only the number of ringers needed to ring the set of bells you are going to ring on attending. No-one should be sat out during ringing. It also means that learners won’t be able to ring unless they are able to do safely and unaided.
  • Only a set of bells with ropes at least 2m apart should be rung and the maximum duration of ringing should be 15 minutes, including ringing up and down. This may mean some unusual combinations of bells being rung for now. Whilst social distancing guidelines may allow for 1m+ to be observed in certain circumstances, the discussions with the Church of England and Public Health England have used 2m social distancing as a basis for safe bellringing.
  • This guidance means that there can be no practices for now, or other ringing (quarter peals, peals, etc).
  • Coronavirus remains active in the UK population (including within Sussex) so we need to stay alert, control the virus and save lives. The risks of virus transmission are highest indoors, especially in poorly ventilated environments, when people are close together and when they spend extended periods together (greater than 15 minutes). Unfortunately, ringing rooms tick all those boxes.

Some towers may not be able to return to ringing for now, indeed the band may not feel confident to be able to do so safely or may wish to wait until the restrictions ease further. It is important to remember that there is no pressure on any member or tower to return to ringing.

Please respect the decision of your parish priest if they decide it is not appropriate for ringing to resume.The Sussex County Association of Change Ringers will provide support to its members as best we can over the coming weeks. For example, if you need help with inspecting bells as part of your tower’s preparations to resume ringing or help completing a risk assessment for your tower.

It is hard for us all not to be able to return to normal straight away, but hopefully you can see the logic behind this careful and staged return to ringing, focusing primarily on the core reason for bellringing – calling people to worship.

For now, we should continue to make use of Ringing Room, Handbell Stadium, WhatsApp and Zoom; all of which have helped to keep us together as bands and friends during the lockdown period. Please continue to share how your tower has managed to make the best of lockdown, some great stories of camaraderie and creativity have emerged over the last 100 days!

Please do share this message with those who might not have email, and remember to get in touch if you have any questions relating to this limited return to ringing.

Best Wishes,

Rob Lane
Sussex County Association of Change Ringers
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