We had a further update from the Church of England Recovery Group last night that Public Health England (PHE) now wants to issue specific guidance about bell ringing but they will not be able to publish it until next week. They expect it to be based on what we have produced. Although the Church has published guidance, which we shared, they are understandably nervous about ringing this weekend in advance of PHE publication, especially if it gets into the press.
We had a conference call with Brendan McCarthy and Mark Betson of the Recovery Group this morning and whilst they stressed that anything published is guidance not instruction, they would really appreciate us waiting to restart ringing until after the PHE guidance is published. Given this is a new relationship that could be very important to us, we do not want to rock this boat for the sake of a week and some disappointment.
In the meantime, we have accumulated all of the questions we have received from ringers on the current guidance into a set of FAQs which we have publish on the website. This will include such things as why the guidance is still 2m rather than 1m, and whether family members can ring on adjacent bells. That can be found here:
We are studying the Scottish, Welsh and Irish guidance but in all cases church opening appears to be on a slower timetable than the Church of England.
The Church of England, working with UK Government, has permitted bells to be rung in its churches from 4th July, accompanying the opening of cathedral and church buildings to the public. It is on the condition that ringing is in accordance with the guidance on these pages. The full announcement can be found here, and the reference to bells is on page 9. The Central Council will continue to pursue a similar situation for other jurisdictions in which there are bells. These pages give all current and previous guidance (to the extent it has not been superceded). We appreciate not all jurisdictions are the same, even within the United Kingdom. The guidance on these pages was agreed following a meeting held between representatives of the Council and Mark Betson, convenor of the Church of England’s Recovery Group, and Brendan McCarthy, the Church’s Adviser for Medical Ethics, Health, and Social Care Policy. The set of Guidance Notes published has been endorsed by them and forms the basis for the resumption of ringing. The pace of returning to ringing will disappoint many bell ringers who are missing the activity that is so much part of our lives. The Church is also missing the contribution that bell ringers make and wants ringing to resume. The Church is however very sensitive to the safety of its volunteers and the relaxation of restrictions will not necessarily be as rapid as it is in certain other settings where other factors are under consideration. This is not a return to ringing all our bells as we were used to, or to do anything other than service ringing. It is the start of the road back to normality. Not all churches will be opening for services on 4th July. It is important to work with incumbents and church authorities for your own tower. Ringing remains at the express permission of the incumbent. Note that there is a specific requirement in the Church of England guidance document that ringers have read this guidance and undertaken the ringing risk assessment. We have also included in these guidance notes for checking bell installations prior to ringing. Please see our checklist below for some key areas that may need addressing. The Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division of the Archbishops’ Council confirmed that for jobs that cannot safely be done by one person, two or three should enter the bell tower to undertake them, following social distancing guidance if they are not from the same household. This guidance will be reviewed at least monthly, or inline with any changes in the Church’s own guidance and policies. which can be found at the bottom of the page. For instance the effectiveness of wearing face masks is currently under review and may be recommended.
- What are we worried about? (PDF)
Recommended background reading for all
- Making your tower as safe as possible (PDF)
Suggested for Tower captains and steeplekeepers
- Checklist for recommencing ringing (PDF)
Summary for steeplekeepers but see also detailed document from SMWG below
- Running safe ringing sessions (PDF)
Guidance for Tower Captains and Ringing Masters
- Can I go ringing safely? (PDF)
Considerations for individual ringers
- How bell ringers are assessing risk (PDF)
To be given to incumbents to explain how we are making our ringing safe
These documents are intended to be succinct and easily readable. They do not contain all the detail that could be put in them but instead focus on the key issues. A more detailed group of documents has been produced by the Stewardship & Management Workgroup and can be downloaded here.
- Ringing risk assessment post Covid 15 June 2020
- Tower and bells risk assessment after non use 15 June 2020
- Tower Safety and Risk Assessment 15 June 2020
- Risk assessment template (based on HSE)
A detailed analysis from Dr Philip Barnes and Dr Andrew Kelso is available to download.
This document seeks to provide information and advice for ringers and those responsible for bell towers regarding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and what issues ringers and church authorities should consider in responding to changes in Government guidance as we start to ease the current lockdown. It is focused on the situation in the Church of England, which is responsible for the vast majority of churches with bells hung for ringing. While the specific advice from leaders of other churches and in other countries may vary, the basic issues for ringers and ringing are the same wherever we ring.