Last Updated 7th August
The only two things changed this week are that use of the word ‘facemask’ in this guidance has been replaced with the words ‘face coverings’ to bring this guidance in line with the Church of England’s guidance. The Church in Scotland also refers to face coverings rather than facemasks, while the Church in Wales does not appear to have stipulated the wearing of face coverings yet. Face coverings does not include visors.
We would like to also clarify that ringing does not specifically have to be for a service, but should still be with the permission of the incumbent. Ringers have been asked to ring for weddings, and on Sundays where there is no service but where the sound of bells is welcome to remind communities of the presence of the church. It is still only 15 minutes though, whatever the purpose of the ringing.
The wearing of face coverings is mandatory from 8th August in places of worship in England and Scotland (Wales doesn’t appear to be mandatory but advice welcome). Wearing face coverings does not reduce the minimum distances approved for ringing which remain as :
- 2m spacing between ringers (which will generally mean alternate bells)
- 1.5m spacing allowable if ropes fall in a straight line (ringers facing inwards not towards each other)
- Adjacent bells can be rung by ringers from the same household
An increasing number of places may have lockdown restrictions brought back as happened first in Leicester, then in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, and most recently in Preston. The effect of these lockdowns on ringing is principally on handbell ringing in people’s gardens.
This website will be updated weekly on a Friday evening, whether or not there is a change in the guidance. Any changes will be brought to your attention in this introductory note.
The individual guidance documents have not been updated as at 7th August, but will now be reviewed to take account of any changes since they were originally published. Updated versions will be published by the end of 8th August.
Standing guidance: The Church of England and the Church in Wales both allow bells being rung in their churches now that cathedral and church buildings are open to the public. It is on the condition that ringing is in accordance with the guidance on these pages. Public Health England (PHE) has reviewed the Council’s guidance, suggesting various amendments which have been incorporated into the guidance given here. It has all been agreed with the Church of England Recovery Group, whose support for ringing is greatly appreciated. The Central Council will continue to pursue a similar situation for other jurisdictions in which there are bells. We appreciate not all jurisdictions are the same, even within the United Kingdom. Church of Scotland guidance does not specifically mention bells or bellringing on their COVID pages. In Scottish government guidance the social distancing guidance is 2m without any 1m+ concessions. The restriction on ringing is difficult for bell ringers who are missing the activity that is so much part of our lives. 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. Failing to follow this guidance could cause this limited return to ringing to be reversed, and we are very grateful to all ringers who have embraced the return to ringing so positively. By no means all churches are open for services. Opening is very much down to individual Dioceses and incumbents, taking into account many factors. 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. The Church in Wales includes the ringing of bells in their guidance issued to parishes, which can be found here. Section 1 Paragraph 15 refers to ringing and states “bell ringing is permissible, but bell ringers should observe two-metre physical distancing and hygiene and cleaning regimes should be implemented. Careful consideration of how bell ringers will access the building suitably distanced from other attendees needs consideration, e.g. different entry points or staggered arrival times. Bell ringing arrangements should comply with guidance available from the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers [ref to this site]”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 is being constantly inline with any changes in the Church’s own guidance and policies, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This website will be updated weekly on a Friday, whether or not there is a change in guidance. Any requests for clarification can be sent to email@example.com – it will get looked at as soon as possible.
- 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
Click here to download the complete set of guidance documents as a single PDF. 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 9 July 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)
- The UK Government guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic can be found via this link
- The Church of England guidance on Opening Cathedral and Church Buildings can be found via this link
Frequently Asked Questions
We have accumulated all of the questions we have been asked by ringers concerning the guidance, such as why the guidance is still 2m rather than 1m, and whether members of family groups can ring on adjacent bells. We will update these FAQs from time to time and this version is all questions up to 3rd July.
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.