I write this note on Palm Sunday morning. It’s bright and sunny, but still with a nip in the April air. As I walk to Sunday service, with lambs gambolling in a nearby field and blooms of flowers at every turn, signs of new life abound.
For Sunday service this morning we had 12 ringers for 10 bells. Of those 12, four have newly come to ringing over the past year – marvellous! Once again, signs of new life abound. With Easter falling in Spring in the northern hemisphere (and apologies to southern hemisphere readers), thoughts naturally turn to new life, new beginnings and the promise of summer.
Perhaps not in every single corner of our exercise, but in so many places we seem to be experiencing a “ringing spring”. Whether it be the very welcome influx of Ringing Remembers learners, the dedication of ringing teachers up and down the country, the pinnacles of “black zone” 12-bell competitions, the increasingly positive portrayal of ringing in the media, one could be forgiven for making a quip about “green shoots”. But perhaps, in the midst of current political and economic uncertainty, it’s nice to have something to be cheerful about. Will these green shoots bring a rich harvest? Let’s work and pray for that!
Bells call communities together, especially at Easter. And in a way, we too are called to give service through ringing. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “vocation” as “a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation”. It derives from the Latin “to call”. By implication, those who are “called” love what they do, and can’t help but ring. Sir John Betjeman published a collection of poems entitled “Summoned by Bells”, and some of us have copies of Frank Foden’s compendium of ringing verse “Inspired by Bells”. Inspired, summoned, called – do these words give an insight into our “vocation”?
As we gather this Sunday to give external expression to the Easter message, we remember those words from the Ringers Hymn: “We call, from tower and steeple, Upon the day of days.” And further in the third verse, we’re reminded of the good fellowship that ringing brings: “… Befriending one another, A strong and steadfast band”.
My hope in this season of Easter is that we are inspired to nurture this renewed appetite for ringing, cherish all ringers for their contribution to the whole, and work together with solidarity, humility and purpose to justify our calling.
A very happy Easter to all!