An article in the British Newspaper the Telegraph tells the story, all to common, of what happens when those who want to continue a tradition clash with those who seek change. The interesting thing is this involved the bell ringers in a church whose history goes back to the 11th Century.
The heart of the dispute is introducing changes to the worship service. The current vicar conducts four services, two traditional, based on the Book of Common Prayer,
and two modern services, with worship songs. The bell ringers are refusing to ring the church bell during the modern services.
What tradition, which you feel has the most value, do you think is in danger of being lost?
Which tradition(s) would you like most to be revised?
“Bell-ringers ‘sacked for being too traditional.” by By David Sapsted,
A team of bell-ringers has been sacked in a row between Anglican traditionalists and modernisers at an 11th century church.
The dispute has led to the locks of the tower at St Nicholas Church in Leeds, Kent, being changed and equipment belonging to the ousted bell master being dumped on his doorstep.
Chris Cooper, 25, and his five colleagues were given their marching orders after refusing to ring the bells during modern, family services featuring “silly worship songs” and for demanding the full reintroduction of services based on the Book of Common Prayer.
The Rev Robin Gill, the vicar of a church whose foundations were laid by the Saxons in 1000 and whose oldest bell was cast in 1617, decided to end the dispute by replacing Mr Cooper with Chris Saunders, a church council member at St Nicholas.
Mr Cooper, who is also on the council, said: “I had all of my equipment, including a peal board of great sentimental value dumped, outside my house in the middle of the night.
“I returned to the church with my band to find locks had been changed and I had already been replaced. All of us in the ringers are furious but I am the one who wanted to go public with this because the church want to keep it hushed up. In the end we were dismissed for being too traditional.
“All of this was done behind our backs. It’s like living in Soviet Russia. During our last council meeting, Chris Saunders and I had a row about the way everything had happened but his actions were defended by the church council because he supports the modern services, where I have spoken out against them.
“There seems to be a big conspiracy against people like me who want to protect the Book of Common Prayer.
The whole thing has been nasty and sneaky. Chris has even modernised the name bell master and called himself tower captain. It’s a joke.”
Mr Cooper, from Hythe in Kent, became bell master at St Nicholas’s five years ago. He is a member of Leeds Youth Ringers, who also play at churches in Ashford, Hothfield and Mersham.
He said problems began at St Nicholas when he aired his views on the importance of maintaining traditional values. “Modernisation goes hand in hand with removing pews, not being silent before services and the introduction of these silly worship songs,” he added.
“They didn’t like what I had to say about the preservation of the Book of Common Prayer. I would expect better from a Christian church that is supposed to be based on trust and fellowship.”
Mr Gill admitted that Mr Cooper’s belongings had been dumped outside his home but said that he had condemned it. “That was not the act of the church and I have already expressed my deep distress and anger to the person who did that,” he said.
“We have met with Chris Cooper and told him it was not a matter of him being sacked but that we wanted a new leader because he is not prepared to ring the bells for the family services.
“We have four churches – two have the Book of Common Prayer and two have modern services. Chris isn’t happy with this but we were doing it when he joined.”
The Rev Nigel Fry, an assistant priest, added that the decision to remove Mr Cooper had nothing to do with theological attitudes. “It was nothing more than a practical thing because he couldn’t promise to ring the bells every Sunday,” he said.