The first week-end in July will be quite a “Ringers’ Occasion” in Christchurch. It is believed to be the first time that the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild have decided to hold their annual general meeting in the Priory town. This meeting is planned for Saturday, July 3rd, and the following day will be observed as a Ringers’ Sunday at the Priory Church.
The preacher at the Guild service at 4.45 p.m. on the Saturday will be the Rev. Frankland Rigby, M.A., Vicar of Bromesberrow, Gloucester, and Master of the Gloucester and Bristol Guild. Mr. Rigby was formerly a member of the St. Peter’s, Bournemouth, band.
At Evensong on the Sunday at 6.30 p.m. there will be some special music and ringers’ hymns, the preacher at this service being Canon K. W. H. Felstead, M.Sc., Master of the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild and Rural Dean of Southampton. Visitors will be especially welcomed. Details of ringing times are included in the meeting advertisement.
The Ringing World No. 2827, June 25, 1965, page 434
Sermon preached by the Rev. F. F. Rigby, Master of the Gloucester and Bristol Associati//on, in Christchurch Priory, on Saturday, July 4th, 1965, at the annual service of the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild.
SOME years ago I rang in a peal which had been arranged, as peals usually are, several days beforehand. Quite by chance, it happened that the local football team had won the match in a cup final and were returning home a t the time of the ringing. Next day, the local evening newspaper had a paragraph headed something like this: “Bells ring out to welcome victorious team.” In fact, there was no connection whatever between the two events; it was the newspaper reporter who had linked them together.
But suppose there had been a connection; suppose the ringers had decided to ring the bells because the football team had won. Would it have been right, or wrong, to ring the church bells on such an occasion? Would it have been right to use the bells, sacred objects which had been dedicated to the glory of God, on such an occasion as this? This poses for ringers an important question; we are plunged right into the centre of a theological discussion which has been going on for a number of years. The question is this; should the Christian separate the sacred and the secular?
I was reminded of this theological discussion in May. The Welsh rugby team had won an international match. Now I live in an area near to the border of England and Wales, and many of the local Rectors and Vicars are Welshmen. When you speak about Wales, tears come into their eyes. When you speak about rugby they become quite lyrical. And when you speak about Wales and rugby together, you would think they had seen the Beatific Vision, especially if Wales happens to have won.
There is only one way I can make them speechless, and then only for a few moments. It is when I tell them that if they want to see rugby at its best they should watch a Rugby League match as played in the north and not the fifteen a side hugger mugger of Rugby Union. I know that the limit to the number of times I shall dare to say this is rapidly approaching and that one of these days I shall be tackled from all sides, for so intensely do they feel about their game. So I was not a bit surprised when I saw in “The Ringing World” that a peal had been rung simply because the Welsh rugby team had won a match. Now, was it right or wrong to ring this peal?
A ringer who lives in Twickenham, where rugby is a gentlemanly game, was greatly distressed about the whole episode. For all I know he may like rugby. But he objected in a letter to “The Ringing World” because the peal had been rung. Some of the points he made were good ones. But. in my judgment, he made a basic mistake. He tried to separate the sacred from the secular. He thought, for example, that the peal could have been excused if it had been rung on bells in a secular tower. He thought that no one would quarrel with a peal rung to mark a Saint’s Day, and this notwithstanding the fact that some of us think there are a number of the Saints who ought to be de-Sainted. He thought there were plenty of what he called ecclesiastical events if a reason was needed for ringing a peal. This separation of sacred and secular is wrong.
Is it not the task of Christianity to make holy, to make sacred, that which we call secular? All the world is God’s world and thirty rugby players are still in God’s world, even though they are playing in Wales. It is because Christians believe that there ought not to be a separation between the sacred and the secular that we have Industrial Chaplains and University Chaplains. The task of Christianity is not to make Christians into members of a little closed shop but to help all people in God ’s world, in the whole of it. Jesus Christ spent nearly all His time in what we should call secular situations, amongst ordinary people doing ordinary jobs, and often illustrating what He wanted to say by secular illustrations.
In practice, what does all this mean for ringers? There is no reason at all why bells should not be rung for secular occasions and a good number of reasons why they should. But we need a sense of balance, a sense of proportion, for if we ring for all secular occasions of note, we shall be ringing for ever and the public would get tired of listening to us.
There is a partial analogy with an orchestra. Normally, an orchestra gives a concert because people like to hear it and I hope, too, because the members like playing. So ringing a peal need not always be for something, except that the ringers like doing what they are doing. They need not always be finding an excuse for ringing.
But the orchestra analogy breaks down. Those who want to listen to an orchestra buy tickets. They are prepared to pay for the pleasure of listening. Ringers, however, thrust their sounds on the multitudes, and the multitudes do not buy tickets to listen. So, if we are ringing a peal for a secular event, we should do well to make known the reason for our ringing beforehand. If we are ringing for our own pleasure, we should be prepared to say so. We must drop the habit of ringing a peal first, and then deciding what it was for afterwards.
That is what often happens. A peal is finished. Then someone remembers it is Aunt Jemima’s birthday. So it appears in “The Ringing World”: “Rung in honour of Aunt Jemima’s birthday.” Everybody knows it wasn’t. Ring for secular events by all means, but as the public have to listen, let them know why the bells are being rung and, above all, let the events be worthwhile secular events.
Of course, there always remains the first reason for ringing, which is associated with church worship. But there are good reasons why bells should enter the lives of the people, just as they do at weddings and funerals. We need to examine the reasons for our ringing apart from service ringing. If the Church is to enter the lives of the people, I believe the bells have their part to play. If my own village team were to win an important football final, I see no reason why the bells should not ring for them. Sickness in the vicinity might decide otherwise, but we need not always think in terms of a peal where the ringing is prolonged. Ringing is not sacred and football secular; they both belong to God’s world.
I see from my records that in 1935 I called a peal at St. Peter’s, Bournemouth, when the Vicar left the parish. This was hardly a sacred event. We liked him. so we thought we would give him a good send-off. He and his wife knew what we were doing. The ringers knew what they were doing. So did many of the public. It was a proper occasion to ring a peal, an occasion which I would certainly not call an ecclesiastical event.
Ringers need to create a good public image. Before all else, our ringing must be worth listening to. As we thrust the sound of the bells upon the public, it is hardly possible to separate the sacred from the secular. Indeed we should not attempt to do so. It is bad theology to try to do it.
Here is something we need to think about very seriously. Why do we ring bells? On what occasions apart from service ringing are we to ring them? Perhaps, as the Twickenham ringer said, this is something for the Central Council to think about. To do this intelligently, they will need the help of modern theologians who are interested in the relationship between the sacred and the secular in theology. I hope the Central Council will do this, for it is by proper discussion that good often comes out of controversial issues.
The Ringing World No. 2831, July 23, 1965, pages 493 to 494
AFTER two years’ departure from tradition, the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild annual general meeting returned to the first Saturday in July for 1965. The venue was Christchurch, and although it had been stated that this was the first to be held there, George Pullinger, in his letter of apology for absence, proved quite correct when he said that the 1932 meeting was held at the Priory. Ringing took place at some six towers in the morning, members converging on the Priory after lunch where, unfortunately, ringing on the 12 was curtailed by a wedding.
The business meeting was held in the Church Hall, where over 60 members, representing all Districts, were welcomed by the Master (Canon K. W. H. Felstead), who was supported by the general secretary (Mr. R. R. Savory) and the auditor (Mr. L. Bailey), who was deputising for the treasurer (Mrs. M. Chapman), the arrival of whose second child was imminent. The best wishes of the Guild were expressed by Canon Felstead. We were sorry that Mr. George Pullinger could not be with us; this was only the third meeting that he had missed since 1918.
After other apologies, the Master mentioned the absence of the Guild librarian, Mr. J. R. Faithfull, who had been seriously injured in a tragic road accident on Whit Monday, which had resulted in the death of another of our dearly loved and most promising young members, Miss Caroline Vibert. Canon Felstead said that he understood that Mr. Faithfull was making good progress in the South Hants Hospital, Southampton. The meeting then stood in silence for a few moments as a mark of respect for ten members who had died during the last 12 months.
The minutes of the 1964 annual general meeting were read by the general secretary. There were no matters arising. The treasurer’s report, read by Mr. Bailey, showed the Guild finances to be in a sound state, although he pointed out that a triennial report was due next year and that this would consume a substantial proportion of the reserves. Mr. D. T. Matkin presented his usual very comprehensive report as peal recorder. This showed the Guild to have been quite active during 1964, 99 peals having been rung by 232 ringers in 57 towers. Thirty-seven had rung and three conducted their first peal. Mr. Geoffrey K. Dodd was both leading ringer and conductor.
Mr. Matkin said that he had had difficulty in collecting booking fees for three peals, two of which had been rung under the leadership of Mr. R. F. Diserens. Mr. Diserens had written expressing his objections to paying peal fees as a matter of principle. The Master asked the meeting how they felt about visiting bands ringing peals for other Associations or non-Association. After some discussion, Mr. C. H. Kippin said that he would suggest that Mr. Matkin reply to Mr. Diserens to the effect that “he should follow the dictates of his own conscience, having regard to the etiquette of peal ringing.” This was approved. Mr. Matkin was applauded for his report.
In the absence of the librarian, his report was read by the secretary; this indicated that the books and handbells were in good order. Mr. J. Hartless presented the report of the Central Council representatives, highlighting some of the features of the 1965 Central Council meeting.
There was a motion on the agenda in the names of Messrs. J. Hartless and M. J. Thomas “That a sub-committee be formed to look into the possible need for reorganisation of District boundaries.” Mr. Hartless explained that in the Southampton District especially it was becoming somewhat embarrassing to have to keep going to the same towers for meetings. He thought that with modern transport facilities there was a case for larger Districts. After considerable discussion, the motion was carried and Messrs. Hartless, Thomas, Jackson and Chapman were appointed to form the sub-committee.
Referring to the 1965 striking competition, the Master stated that a competition would be held although the response to date had not been any better than in previous years. The contest would still be for either six- or eight-bell bands.
NEW GENERAL SECRETARY
For the election of officers, Canon Felstead left the chair, but quickly returned when he was unanimously re-elected. As indicated at the 1964 annual general meeting, Mr. Savory did not wish to stand for re-election; the Master paid tribute to his service over the past six years, and this was greeted by applause from the meeting. Mr. D. J. Forder was elected to the position of general secretary. All the other officers, treasurer Mrs. M Chapman, peal recorder Mr. D. T. Matkin, auditor Mr. L. Bailey, librarian Mr. J. R. Faithfull and Central Council representatives Messrs. A. V. Davis, J. Hartless, R. R. Savory and Canon Felstead were all re-elected for a further three-year period.
The date of the next meeting was agreed as July 2nd, 1966, and the venue Alton.
The service, which followed in the Priory, was conducted by the Vicar of Christchurch, the Rev. Leslie H. Yorke; the preacher was the Rev. F. F. Rigby, Master of the Gloucester and Bristol Association, whose address has been published in “The Ringing World.”
On returning to the Church Hall we were confronted by a magnificent tea which had been prepared by the ladies of the Christchurch District, at which we were joined by the Vicar and the Rev. F. F. Rigby.
After votes of thanks a film show, organised by Mr. Davis, was given in the Priory School. This included the Canadian “Ringers Required,” a short film made by a local club, of ringing at Fordingbridge, featuring Ron Marlow in the star role, and “The Tower of Washington,” a very well produced film which we would recommend as being well worth seeing by all ringers.
D. J. F.
The Ringing World No. 2833, August 6, 1965, page 527