A report on why the Sanctus Bell should not be rung before services
Notes re-written from a report to the PCC on 17th September 2013 by the Tower Captain
(This really needs turning into a more positive report on the bell itself, but for the moment here is the state of play.)
I advised clergy a year ago regarding their responsibilities regarding the Sanctus bell and they took my advice. The Churchwardens have now been asked if the bell could be rung before some services (i.e. when the main team of bellringers are not present), so I wish to give the PCC an explanation of our policy and practice.
Ringing bells in any form is intended to enhance worship and bring beauty to the church. They are a welcome addition, but are not essential. Many churches do not have bells.
Bells and bellringers follow certain conventions in order to give pleasure and not annoyance to people outside the church. The bells should not be too loud. They should not be rung too often, or for too long, or too early, or too late. Their condition and tone must be good. The ringers should give their best performance. Considerable effort goes into all this.
Under Canon Law, matters relating to the Sanctus bell are strictly a clergy matter rather than PCC, because no bellringing can take place without the Rector’s permission.
Nearly 100 years ago when all our bells were overhauled and re-hung, this little Sanctus bell was found to be unfit for purpose. It is badly cracked, and has a very poor quality sound. It cannot be repaired or modified because it is an antique. Neither can it be disposed of, as it is part of our heritage. So it hangs historically in the Tower but is of no use.
As a compromise, so that it was not taken completely out of use, it was provided with a rope leading down to the Chancel, so that it could be used as a Sanctus bell during the Communion Service. This has not generally been done in St Michael’s, though it is common practice elsewhere in our benefice; in any case it is not recommended, since the sound has no beauty and would be a distraction rather than a reminder at the sacred moments of the service.
It can also be used ceremonially during the licensing of a new Rector.
The Sanctus bell was never intended to be rung as a call to worship, or to be struck continuously for minutes at a time. Doing this will crack it still further and make its condition worse; it would also inflict a most unpleasant sound on anyone nearby, and would give a bad name to bellringers, to the Rector and the church.