Many years ago, All Saints’ in Harrow Weald (Middlesex) was home to a thriving band of ringers. By late 2019, with only a couple of members still ringing and no regular practices, their once-a-month service ringing could occur only if supplemented by other ringers.
At this time a training band for local foundation level ringers had just been established. But we were nomadic, with no home tower in which to hold practices. So I asked if we could hold a monthly practice at All Saints: 'yes'. We managed three before lockdown! And ‘in return’ we augmented the monthly service ring so that all eight bells were in action.
Lockdown shunted our activities online; eKenton was created in ringing Room. Continuing a monthly (virtual) service ring seemed sensible for a number of reasons:it maintained our routine, provided a purpose for an online ring, and was an excuse to sustain contact with the church. I keep the vicar, churchwarden and tower captain informed to promote awareness of our activities. We ask that the congregation is told when we ring; and I send a follow-up email to the church contacts, with screenshots.
As soon as restrictions eased I arranged for a bell health check. The ensuing chimes produced a flood of enquiring calls to the church. Well ... we’d been heard! When services resumed I asked if we could ring again for real: 'yes'. Covid-safety meant that we could only ring on three so I asked if we could maximise rope availability by returning the following week: 'yes'. I constructed a rota. Popping into the church to sanitise our hands enabled us to introduce ourselves. We were seen ... and invited to return. Father John wrote: With deep and grateful thanks for the wonderful novelty of having bells every Sunday before worship!
Next we were asked to ring for a wedding. Due to the unique circumstances, we waived our fees! Appreciation and thanks were received. We have asked that the Tower Captain represent us on the PCC when future wedding fees and other bell-related matters are discussed.
Further restrictions stopped play once more but we still tried to make a noise! We offered to ring hand bells at the carol service, though additional restrictions scuppered that too...but the church had noticed.Two of us (a family ‘group’) rang awesome Rounds and Call Changes on 2 (don’t laugh – it’s crazy times) on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Again, we were thanked.
Meanwhile, the Rector at All Saints’, Westbury (Wiltshire) enquired what virtual service ringing entailed. I suggested that eKenton could ring for the White Horse Ministry once a month, creating interest both for eKenton ringers and for the Westbury churches. Ringing was advertised to the congregation, paving the way for the return of the resident band. We have a lovely screenshot of the Rector and her daughter joining us on Zoom at the start of service ringing.
Currently, although there is no physical ringing, we continue the monthly virtual ring for All Saints’, Harrow Weald. The previously almost silent tower is unlikely to stay silent when ringing resumes. I have a band of ringers champing at the bit, ready and waiting ... and Father John has written to say: 'You are welcome anytime!'
Sonia Field, Harrow Weald