Ringing guidance for England for the period from 19th July onwards has been agreed with the House of Bishops Recovery Group today and can be found here. The lifting of any restrictions on how long we ring for and with how many other ringers is welcomed, although we need to be mindful that at a time of greatly increasing infection rates, and big regional variations, many ringers will still be cautious in terms of how much ringing they do. Some towers are actually discussing reducing the amount of ringing they do because of the rise in infection levels, not increasing it.
The Church of England’s own guidance has not been published yet, but should be later today. It includes a paragraph referring to the Central Council’s guidance.
Although the wearing of facemasks is no longer mandated in places of worship, and will not appear in the Church of England guidance, we have included a number of situations where due to the particular nature of ringing we would expect masks to be worn, including close face to face teaching, and ringing with unvaccinated children. Some clergy may retain a policy of facemasks in their church or cathedral, and if they do then their wishes take precedence.
The Government now wants us to take responsibility for our own actions. If you don’t think you should ring for as long as you are allowed to – don’t. If you want to wear a facemask when ringing – wear one. If a member of your band wants you all to wear facemasks to protect them – discuss it as a band and come to an agreement. Bellringing is a group activity and we are responsible for each other not just ourselves. The virus has not gone away by any means – we are learning to live with it.
This seems like an ideal time to thank the rest of the Covid guidance team – Phil Barnes, Mark Regan and David Pouncey – who have helped navigate this difficult process over the last 16 months, and the large number of ringers who have given their quiet support behind the scenes. As a team we would like to thank Mark Betson and Brendan McCarthy, the members of the House of Bishops Recovery Group, who have had an extraordinary burden put on them.