Symmetry

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:

stedman-symmetry-bells

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.

stedman-ringing

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.

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About Faithful Friar

I am a 20+ year member of the Community of Jesus Brotherhood, so I live in the Friary with the other vowed brothers along with any novices or combination of guest/ resident men – young or old – who may be with us at any given time. Our vows are the same as any simple or solemnly professed Community member, with the addition of consecrated celibacy and poverty. I moved here shortly out of high school to study music for a summer. At the end of that summer I chose to stay here as a CJ member. Shortly thereafter I knew another change was needed, and asked to be accepted into the brotherhood first as a postulant, later as a novice. My life in the Brotherhood involves a variety of occupations, but they are centered on the continual service of prayer and praise in our church and on the outreach ministries springing from that service. This means manual labor as well as ongoing study and training: theological, musical, technical/ scientific, artistic, historical, philosophical, etc. Sometimes this involves teaching others, so that is part of our life too. It’s a life of poverty and yet full of hidden riches.

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