Ringers as a reminder of God AGM of the Marlborough Branch of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers
It was lovely to be able to lead a short service preceding the AGM of the Marlborough Branch of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in October. Some of the ringers had come from a wedding earlier in the afternoon, whereas others had travelled from Dorset to Marlborough to join the local ringers.
Thinking about a Bible reading appropriate for the afternoon, obviously there are no direct references to bell ringing in Scripture, as there were no bell towers in early Christianity. Moreover, change ringing – the art of ringing a set of tuned bells – is typical English, starting after the invention of full-circle ringing in seventeenth century England. There is only one such bell tower on the Continent, which is situated in ‘t Klockhuys in Dordrecht.
It is remarkable that in an era where society calls itself more and more secular, music, arts and literature festivals are increasingly popular. I would like to suggest this evening that a reason may be we are facing a level of disillusionment, and that arts, music and literature are a beacon of hope and truth. I would also like to suggest that this disillusionment is in many ways not dissimilar from where we were a century ago, at the end, and during the aftermath of the Great War.
Of course, there are many ways in which our society is completely different now from the 1920s – as historians will be very able to point out. However, when I came across the following quote from the artist and author David Jones written in 1926, I sense that there are some parallels to be drawn too. In his first published essay since the Great War, Jones wrote that art must express contemporary culture and that, since today – 1926 – we are generally unable to create ‘a thing of beauty’, the only hope for authentic art is a counter culture determined ‘to avoid … the general decline.’
Art: a thing of beauty, determined to avoid the general decline.