The response to an appeal for members of the congregation at the Cathedral Church of St Marie’s to train to become bell ringers has left organisers stunned and delighted.
More than 30 signed up for taster sessions following the appeal at weekend Masses for parishioners to, in the words of the Psalm, “Ring out your joy to the Lord.”
There are around 7,000 churches, mainly in the British Isles, but also in India and Pakistan, Africa, Australasia, North America, Belgium, Holland and Spain, that have sets of bells designed for Change Ringing.
However, only 50 of those 7,000 churches are Roman Catholic – and St Marie’s is one of them. St Marie’s has had a ring of eight bells for more than 150 years and for 80 of those years, it had its own active band of ringers.
Sadly, the band declined in the 1960s and since then the Cathedral has relied on members of Sheffield Universities’ Guild of Change Ringers and visiting ringers to give voice to its bells. The number of student ringers has fallen in recent years, but, three St Marie’s parishioners started learning to ring after visits to the bell tower were organised by the Cathedral’s former heritage officer, two years ago.
Their appeal for more to join them – prompted by Cathedral Dean, Fr Christopher Posluszny, and backed by Bishop Ralph – resulted in a response way above their expectations.
The success has left them with the problem of finding a way to train a new St Marie’s band, likely to be well into double figures.
Fortunately, experienced ringers from St John’s, Ranmoor and other churches are rallying round and weekly St Marie’s practice sessions are expected to start shortly.
The new band is also open to recruits from other parishes in the Diocese of Hallam.
The St Marie’s ringers stress that bell ringing is about technique, rather than strength and people who are slight and short can ring just as easily as those who are taller and stronger. You don’t need any musical training and age isn’t a limit either. People can start learning at 14 and younger and could be 60 and older.
Anyone wanting to find out more about becoming a bell ringer at St Marie’s should contact Bob Rae, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photographs courtesy of Bob Rae