Resumption of Ringing - a Guild Statement
Dear Fellow Members of the Coventry Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers I am sure you will agree, it is welcome news that bell ringing is to resume within Churches in our Diocese. The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (CCCBR) has been working with the Church of England Recovery Group to help outline how very restricted opportunities to return to our towers for ringing for divine service can take place safely.
This current relaxation is a good step in moving to a "new normal" for our varied and diverse ringing activities that we have all missed so much over the past 15 weeks. The following is a very limited commentary/interpretation of the CCCBR papers produced for Coventry Guild members.
Please read all the CCCBR papers yourself and familiarise yourself with their contents as these must remain the definitive documents. They are very comprehensive, well thought out and clearly presented material. On 1st July, Simon Linford, President of the CCCBR, distributed the full advice to Guilds. It is 6 explanatory documents (all no more than 2 pages) and 3 more lengthy documents for ensuring there is a good paper trail of what has been done and agreed with the particular church. In addition, there is a full risk assessment. Please take time to read it and share it with your fellow ringers. I think you will find this makes many issues and questions you have much clearer.
It has to be very clearly understood at the outset that the current relaxation gives permission for 15 minutes of Sunday service ringing and no other purpose. It has to be with the permission of the incumbent and the ringers adhere to the stipulations in the CCCBR papers. We believe, this includes the raising and lowering of bells.
There are three pre-requisites.
(1) There is a Sunday service to ring for. There will be more of these as the weeks go by as parishes get their building and pattern of worship agreed as satisfying the CoE general guidelines for re-opening churches for services with congregation present.
(2) The ringers themselves are prepared to ring in accordance with the content of the CCCBR papers so there are enough to have a viable band. Many ringers will, quite rightly, feel that the covid-19 risk to themselves and those in the same household is still too high (the end of lockdown is happening too fast for them). Ringers are fully entitled to express that health comes before this limited opportunity to get back on the end of a rope.
(3) The incumbent (not a decision delegated to the Churchwardens and PCC), will permit ringing and has agreed all the recommended paper trail documents. Before ringing the bells an inspection of the bell installation must be carried out. What is to be covered in highlighted in the CCCBR documents and two people must be involved to meet existing Health and Safety recommendations. The objective of the inspection is primarily to ensure that nothing will impede the bells nor that any structural damage has occurred since the last ringing. Realistically the level to which fittings can be inspected is limited and anyway 15 weeks of non-ringing is unlikely to see any real deterioration. When first ringing up do so with more caution than usual.
Be well aware that social distancing needs to be in place in the tower. After requesting a clarification from the CCCBR the distance is two metres and not one metre. This is more difficult to have in place for almost all towers. One opportunity to investigate is to have the entire band part of a household or "social bubble" who are already exempt from social distancing by recent general changes in government rulings. This might be possible where there are families of bell ringers, which we do have within our Guild. Looking forward, and hopefully without a second wave of this terrible virus, further relaxations will be made by the government and these will almost certainly work in favour of having less regulated forms of ringing. Some towers may well decide it is be simpler to wait a week or two and direct efforts in either what is then an easier situation or learn from other towers' experiences. However, in the meantime, we hope to hear of bands being successful in their Sunday service ringing endeavours.
If you do need further clarification on any points, or require help with an inspection of your bells, please let me know. Mark Sayers is the Guild Health and Safety advisor and will be able to offer practical help if required. Finally, remember that the CCCBR documents are the definitive statements and the Guild will do its best to give those asking useful advice on how to proceed.
Andrew Alldrick Guild President;
Mark Sayers, Guild Ringing Master;
Simon Rogers, Guild Treasurer;
Annie Hall General Secretary,
Trustees of the Coventry Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers.