This was the question I was asked – I’m the Lay Worship Leader and Churchwarden at the church of St Mary the Virgin in the Northamptonshire village of Weekley.
A bit of background
Sadly the six bells have been relatively quiet for 20 years with only occasional visiting bands and our sister church’s ringers coming over for weddings. We have been encouraging the children and some adults to chime the bells before the service so that the village knows we are here. And if ringers have not been booked for weddings, I ask the congregation if they would help me ring out the couple at the end of the service. With a little encouragement I can usually round up half a dozen willing volunteers who have a short practice before the bride arrives. The smiles of the couples as they walk up the aisle is a picture and those who have rung are proud as punch. Many photographs and stories about how they rang the bells at the wedding are extra mementos of the great day.
Learning to ring
Sitting at the computer, I search for someone who can teach us to ring the bells as part of the Ringing Remembers project. I find ART and send in an enquiry. Almost by return, I get an email from Elaine Greatrex, an ART teacher, who offers to visit the church and talk about learning to ring. Sounds simple enough, but we have six bells on plain bearings that have not been maintained for years and bits that need repair. I have been associated with steam engine enthusiasts in the past and am familiar with how they rush to help when a new project comes up but the support we have had from ringers has been amazing. Bearings oiled, ropes adjusted, stay replaced, wheel cheek repaired and advice by the bucketful. So, what about learning to ring? “It’s like learning to drive” and “We all have days when it does not work” have been the key phrases we have heard. “Reach up as high as you can”; “pull through and point your thumbs to the floor”; “don’t look up”. We will ring those **** bells up one of these days. Eventually, with four regular trainees we are really beginning to enjoy our Thursday evenings. But what about Ringing Remembers? On the Thursday before the 11th we decided that we would chime in Rounds.On the day, the four of us gallantly stood at the ropes and started to chime. We may not have achieved perfection, but we did it and afterwards felt we had made a contribution to remembering the 1400 who did not return to their tower to ring after WWI
So, what next?
With Challenge One over, we are determined to learn how to ring for services and make St Mary the Virgin a ringing church. We may even be visiting a church near you as we start to visit other towers. And for me,I’ll be tower grabbing instead of train spotting.