Change ringing

bell-towerPlain Bob, Plain Hunt, 3-4 down, 3-4 up…minimus, minor major…circle of work, top of the stroke, and sallies, clappers, and stays. The words circled around me, like flying elephants with very small wings, heavy, dense and ready to come crashing down at any moment. Wow – this was not quite as I imagined.

I had watched our band of bell ringers since our tower was dedicated in 2009. Their perseverance and dedication was obvious. Over time the rhythm of their rings had steadily improved, and the patterns they rang became more complex. I had always been intrigued by the quiet focus of the band during their post – service ringing. It was a team sport of the most intricate and subtle kind. Faces focused, no one uttering a word, eyes all looking to the center of their circle. How one word by the leader, “bob”, could make them all change the timing of their bells and create another pattern. It was a bit like a secret world of sound, ringing the rest of us into and out of our beloved church for worship, elections, passings, all the most important moments of our life together.

Receiving a letter of invitation from our tower captain last March, I jumped at the chance to be a part of this. Despite the obvious complexity, it seemed doable. I was well trained in rhythms from years of playing an instrument. It couldn’t be that hard – pull on the rope, let the bell swing a bit, pull again…

Wow – how wrong I was! I found out it was not “bell ringing”, but “change ringing”, and letting a 500lb bell swing with only a 15ft rope to control it through a complex pattern of “changes” was an art that will take a lifetime to master. I have so much to learn and many teachers here to help me, and I am finding there is no shame in this experience. As one who has never taken easily to the spiritual principal of “being wrong” and of humility, it has actually been a joy (mostly) to fail miserably amongst my brothers and sisters, in pursuit of this art that is so glorious to God and man when done well. It occurred to me this is a life lesson of the best kind. To fail and get up again, without condemnation, trusting in God’s love through others around us. There is a wonderful freedom in that – and well worth a little “bruised” pride to obtain.

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