The Tower Handbook

8.1: The tower and the church

a: What is meant by an unringable vicar?

This derogatory term is sometimes used to describe an incumbent who does not wish the bells in his tower to be rung. He may tolerate service ringing, but will not welcome visiting bands, peals or quarter peals. He may issue a blanket ban, or merely be so obstructive that the locals deter requests to avoid having to confront him. This is a lamentable state of affairs, since the bells are put in churches to be rung and heard. It is easy to scorn such people, but it is possible their attitude was initially triggered by inconsiderate behaviour by ringers in the past. As ringers we are all responsible for building good relationships with the clergy. Try to make sure you never contribute to any priest becoming 'unringable'.

b: How can we avoid upsetting the local clergy?

This is a rather negative question, since it presumes that ringers will tend to upset the clergy. If you start with an 'us and them' attitude, you are more likely to upset people. Good communication is the best way to avoid misunderstanding which is what usually leads to confrontation. Here are some things to consider when dealing with your parish priest (and the church authorities generally). Remember that the incumbent has the last word in matters concerning the bells.

c: Do we all have to go to the services we ring for?

In an ideal world you would all do so without stopping to ask the question, but in the real world things are not so simple. Many parishioners only attend one service on Sunday, but if you ring for two or three does that mean you should also attend them all? You may ring at more than one church, and if you stayed to the service at one, the other would not have enough ringers. Your band may include some non churchgoers.

Some parish priests make attending the service a condition of ringing. This is an extreme position that most would not share. In such situations, it is likely that other aspects of the relationship are far from ideal too.

It is far better to maintain good relations with your parish priest to ensure that he or she knows and understands about ringing and about your band. The more of you that do attend services and take part in the parish life, the less likely that there will be any ultimatums about those who do not.

Always emphasise the positive aspects.

d: What have the churchwardens got to do with the ringers?

The priest is a prominent figure of authority in the church but the wardens are legally responsible for the church fabric (buildings and fittings), including the bells. The priest is responsible for spiritual matters including ringing for worship, but when there is no priest (during an interregnum) the wardens are in full charge. It is as important to get them 'on your side'. Wardens can change more often than priests, so you will need to work harder getting to know them and earning their trust.

e: Should we be represented on the PCC?

It isn't essential, and you cannot demand a place, but it certainly helps to have your say at the meetings. It will increase the visibility of ringers and ringing issues. All too often the ringers are the ones who are heard and not seen. One of you should be prepared to stand and try to get elected. This will be easier if your candidate is known in the church, or has some special skill to offer. Having a ringer on the PCC is one way to contribute to the wider life of the church. It is also helpful if you need to undertake a restoration, augmentation or major repair.

f: Can we avoid causing a distraction after service ringing?

This can be a problem if your ringing room is open to the church. There are ropes to put away, coats to don, possibly reminders about future ringing. All this makes a noise. When you stop ringing it is natural to unwind a bit and people tend to chatter. This can be very distracting for people in church preparing themselves for the service, so spare them a thought. However well intentioned you are, sometimes you will forget. Remind each other about the need to be quiet. Don't draw adverse attention to yourselves, especially if you are not going into the service.

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