by Faithful Friar
This year our bell ringing band plans to attempt our first “peal”. This is a big deal. Our tower holds 10 bells and we’re working on learning “Grandsire Caters” for the attempt. The peal must include over 5000 “changes” (a change in the order of bells each round) and typically takes at least 3 hours to ring. Peals are often rung to mark major celebrations. Having the capability within our local band to attempt a peal is significant and cause for celebration.
Grandsire Caters Grid
Each ringer will learn the patterns for each colored line above, and a conductor will learn how to “call” and direct the attempt using “Bobs” and “Singles” shown on the right.
It takes years to learn how to ring. Most of the ringers in the peal band began learning in 2009 when the bells were installed. The first stage involves simply understanding how to control the bell, often referred to as “handling”. Next, we begin to learn patterns and methods. Enough of our band is at this stage where we can now attempt a peal in 2017. Attempting a peal will be a significant and exciting milestone.
There is an interesting aspect to the ringing language used in the tower, specifically the word “attempt”. We never say, “we’re going to ring a peal”, always “attempt a peal”. I think it underscores the challenging nature of a peal. If any one of the ringers “gets lost”, makes a mistake in the patterns, over the 3 hours of ringing, we will not have rung a peal. So, the stakes are fairly high for each ringer to stay focused and learn the patterns as best as possible. During the attempt, ringers often help each other stay on track, giving a nod here, a look there. Subtle affirmations point to advanced levels of teamwork and encourage success. We very much hope our attempt is successful and look forward to hearing a celebratory peal attempt ringing out over Cape Cod Bay.
By Faithful Finch
“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13
I find it so interesting that ringing bells can be a spiritual exercise!
The other day, some of us were learning the process of “ringing the bells up.” This can be a frightening experience because if you don’t do it properly, you can have an accident. As the Lord is accustomed to doing, he taught me a lesson in the process.
I was so stuck in my fear, that I was doing things that blocked me from going forward in the process. I wasn’t breathing, my knees were locked rigid, and I couldn’t even hear Br. Matthew’s instructions he was giving me to help me. I had been quietly saying out loud, “Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus, I trust in You.”
To my surprise, all of a sudden, I found myself saying, “Br. Matthew, I trust in you.” When we stopped ringing, I had a good laugh with those ringing with me, but realized, sometimes my lack of trust isn’t just a lack of trusting Jesus. It’s not trusting my friends around me that want to help and that the Lord has put there for me. I realized I allow my fear to block myself from going forward. Things don’t always have to be as difficult as I allow my own sin to make them.
What a great lesson!
by Faithful Friar
We had the privilege last week of having 2 interesting guests drop in to see our bells and our tower: Benjamin Sunderlin and his wife, Kate. It’s not often that people come to Cape Cod in the bleak midwinter, and even more seldom when they are interested in and knowledgeable about bells! They are the owners of B.A. Sunderlin Bell Foundry in Ruther Glen, VA, which is a “full service foundry that provides the highest quality, traditionally made, bronze bells in the States.” It was nice to show someone our bells and have them appreciate the way they were made and the sounds that they make – their personality! Ben’s interest in bells has taken him all over the world in order to research the different techniques for bell making. They have the unusual ability to cast bells right in your yard or parking lot and turn this experience into a cultural event for the local community, complete with a lesson on the history and craft of bell casting.
I logged on to the Sunderlin Foundry website and watched the sad video on “The Death of a Bell”…don’t miss it if you are a bell ringer and need a new found appreciation of how bells contribute to the voice of the church, and how we as bell ringers should bring out the best in our monolithic instruments! Don’t miss the brief video on Benjamin as “Notre Dame’s Bell Maker” and find out why he describes a bell as a “culturally charged object”!
Our best wishes accompany them both on their ambitious and much needed vocation. Thanks for stopping by!
Ben Sunderlin (above) and Kate Sunderlin (right) at work in Ruther Glen, VA. Images courtesy of B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry Facebook page.
by Faithful Friar
The symbolism inherent in bell-ringing is never clearer than when we “ring in” each new year. Combining the celebratory and the chronological elements perfectly as they do, it’s a privilege to participate in the midnight ringing Dec. 31st, even if it seems the whole world (i.e. sleepy Cape Cod) is abed. Members of our Community of Jesus ringing band began as usual with rounds on the 10 tuned bells in our tower, and one by one the upper bells were stood until only the lowest tenor bell remained to strike 12 blows at midnight. Then all joined back in for some festive called changes.
It is well to reflect at times like this how much God has blessed us both individually and corporately. We each have a testimony of his love and care in the circumstances of our lives. And yet we are called together in our various circles, and we have to listen and pull our ropes as intrepidly as we may, sounding out in as good a sequence as we can manage whatever signal call the Lord allows us to make. The ringing of our church bells at daily service times happens to be among the loudest such signal; so again it is a privilege as well as a responsibility to participate!
Follow this link to see a video of some of our ringing!
by Faithful Friar
The organ has been called the voice of the church. The bells are an exterior voice of the church, and are considered part of the worship. The bells are rung to call people to worship, in times of praise and celebration, in times of mourning, and when members take vows.
Recently, a peal of bells was rung for the first time in over two years in the Northern Iraq town of Bartella after they recaptured it. Bartella was once home to thousands of Assyrian Christians who fled after the Islamic State seized control as part of a lightning blitz in the area.
St. Matthew’s Church had had the crosses removed from the steeples and the bell tower and the religious statues defaced. What a joyous occasion to be able to ring the bells after reclaiming the town.
Read more about Bartella: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-bartella-idUSKCN12L2HU
by Faithful Friar
While reading her favorite book to a blind, elderly friend of mine, I came across this description of bell ringing in their little town of Church Enstone in England in the early 1900’s. It seemed especially appropriate as we approach the time of All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day…..
As soon as anybody died the family ‘ud send for Thomas to toll the church bell. Our St. Kenelm’s has six bells. They was recast in 1831 but some retain their original inscriptions. Thomas’s favourite was ‘I to the church the living call, and to the grave do summon all.’ It were widely believed in the old days that the sound of bells ‘broke the power of lightnings’ and ‘drove away thunder’, and that the air were the Great Highway of evil spirits waiting to snatch the soul of a dead person before it could reach the haven of heaven. Thomas’ tolling kept ‘em all at bay. He’d let you know which soul had fled by giving three lone knells before tolling regular for a man, two lone knells before tolling for a woman, and one for a child. How long he went on tolling ‘ud tell everybody the status of the dead person in the parish. Thomas were a proper ringer, tolling full-bell, ringing on the sally. If he warn’t able to ring, swinging the whole bell, he’d tie the rope on the clapper for a volunteer toller to hit the clapper against the bell, waiting a whole minute between claps for the note to die away. I done that for him many a time.
The Parish Church of St. Kenelm’s, Enstone
(If you’d like to read more, see Lifting the Latch by Sheila Stewart, Oxford University Press, 1987)
by Faithful Friar
One very nice feature of learning and taking an active part in the art and exercise of change-ringing is that you are going to become a host to visitors. In this it is not unlike the Benedictine life here in the Community of Jesus. Our founders Mother Cay and Mother Judy exemplified this practice, and in his rule St. Benedict speaks at length about welcoming guests with due hospitality. Monastic communities emphasize this charism as a means of living out the Gospel. In a similar fashion, change-ringing towers and the bands of ringers in them should expect travelers who happen to be ringers to show up on your doorstep. There are guidelines and protocols to govern how it should happen, but the first principle is to accept that it will and to welcome it.
This weekend we have the joy and privilege of having an entire band of 10 ringers coming to attempt a full peal in the tower at the Church of the Transfiguration. This means they will ring a composition or arrangement of a particular known method (pattern of movement, exactly how the bells should weave in and out of each other). Each ringer must know the pattern by heart, and must also know how the pattern varies when the conductor makes a call. The calls serve to swap specific bells over onto a different track and thus extend the pattern, to avoid any repetition which is not allowed. The conductor must memorize many dozens of these calls and know exactly when to make them. If they aren’t given in the correct sequence or ringers don’t execute them properly, then it will either it go off the rails or it doesn’t come out properly at the end and the peal is “lost.” So it takes tremendous concentration and fortitude—continuous ringing/ counting for well over 3 hours. But in the process one can appreciate such concerted efforts and one can hear the marvelous sounds of bells!
by Faithful Friar
Whenever someone asks what I like about bell ringing, the first thing that pops into my head is “talking to God”. I figure there’s pretty much a guarantee God hears the massive clanging bells swinging above us, and for me, ringing is an opportunity to talk to God through the bells. On a good day (and sometimes the worst too), nothing else matters in the bell tower. So, I was struck when I heard someone say— they love the bells because they have a sense of God talking to them when the bells ring. Sounds like a two-way street runs through the bell tower between God and us. There’s beauty in the symmetry of this conversation. As it turns out, there is quite a bit of symmetry in ringing as well.
We’re learning a “method” called Stedman during our ringing practices. A method is essentially an algorithm or set of instructions which create unique patterns in the ringing order of the bells. The simplest example of a method is a method called Plain Hunt. Each ringer moves their bell either quickly forward or slowly backward in the ringing order until reaching either the front or back and then reverses direction until coming round to the original order. All methods, including Stedman, are based on this concept and skills learned from the Plain Hunt method. Stedman has an additional set of rules which ringers refer to as “the work”. All the ringers have the same set of instructions, or “work”, with the exception being— as the conductor calls for the method ringing to begin or “go”, each ringer begins the work pattern at a different point in the work sequence. Below is a diagram showing the order of work with red bubbles showing where each ringer begins in the pattern:
Diagram credit to: http://mirrors.josefsipek.net/www.ringbell.co.uk/methods/st5.htm
You’ll notice a reflection in the blue line above in the middle of the diagram. In Stedman, the pattern of work is perfectly symmetrical half way through the method. Even the different sections of the method are symmetrical. The blue line shows how each bell moves for each round. For the treble bell, or 1 bell, the ringer moves the bell slowly out from the lead position, to the second position, the third position, fourth and finally to the back in fifths position before the work begins.
Above diagrams the relationships of all the bells throughout the Stedman method, an intricate translation from sound to sight. There’s quite an opportunity in all of that for conversation with God. And the cool thing is, even though life sometimes seems far more complex than Stedman, I think He listens, understands, and cares about everything we’re saying.