The public and media spotlight focused on York Minster and its bellringers in the days since Tuesday 11 October has brought a number of ringing-related matters into sharp relief.
With regard to the specific situation at York Minster, events are still unfolding, and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the deliberations or actions of the main people in this arena. Over the period since 11 October, there has been a fair degree of “trial by social media”, including much emotive language based on incomplete information. Ringers at large can be assured that CCCBR has proactively offered assistance which has been accepted, and the President will be meeting the Minster authorities. Outcomes of such discussion may not make it into the media, but where possible it is hoped to report back what we can, through the usual communication channels.
It is worth remembering that our current President, Chris Mew, has for many years been our ‘in-house’ expert on safeguarding, liaising regularly with those responsible for drafting and enacting relevant legislation, within both the Home Office and the Church of England. We could not have a more knowledgeable and able advocate for ringers and ringing at this difficult time.
At the same time, the particular situation at York Minster has served to highlight some of the good work that CCCBR undertakes with little fanfare, as well as the outstanding contributions that bellringers at large make in their parishes and communities nationally and internationally.
Across a wide variety of compliance topics, CCCBR works hard on behalf of all ringers to develop and codify best practice, and disseminate guidance as widely as possible. The Council’s work on Safeguarding guidance, for instance, has evolved through our close work with both state and church legislators since the early days of CRB checks. This guidance has the endorsement of relevant third parties (Church of England, Home Office, Ecclesiastical Insurance etc); not only serving to protect and safeguard children and vulnerable adults, but also providing advice regarding suspected offenders, spent convictions and the like. The guidance is backed up by a network of Guild and Association Safeguarding Officers, with escalation points to CCCBR Officers and Diocesan Safeguarding Officers. Compliance with the guidance also offers protection to ringers, especially tower captains and others who teach.
Other guidance includes advice on such topics as Church Law, Health & Safety, Risk Assessment, Insurance, Tower Management, Noise and Data Protection. The development and dissemination of this guidance, backed up by implementation in our bell towers, has done much to ensure a safe and robust ringing milieu in which our exercise can thrive. In recent days, the media have been attempting to portray ringing as somehow risky or unsafe – however the track record demonstrates the opposite.
In addition to the ongoing work of CCCBR and its Committees, it has been heartening to observe the reactions of ringers, public and clergy to the events at York Minster. Both traditional and social media have been full of reports and anecdotes highlighting the excellent working relationships between ringers, their parishes and their vicars. Clergy have been vocal in praising the efforts of their ringing volunteers, and the important “lay ministry” that they undertake in the lives of their parishes and wider communities. Such recognition is hard won, of course, and it behoves all ringers to continue this good work and maintain excellent relations with clergy and public.
By its nature the situation at York has been of high profile but such incidents within ringing are thankfully rare.
If any ringer has concerns regarding safeguarding or any other area of good tower stewardship – CCCBR is here to help.