A nice ring to it

Waiting for me in the ringing chamber are ropes, draped in the air like a giant arachnid.

My guide, Wood, is pleased with my surprise. After all, he is the captain of the bells. He is eager to explain his love of campanology.


On my walk this morning in Charleston, S.C., God has guided my feet into a lovely Anglican church. I had thought the sublime sanctuary was empty, but a man at the front drew me into conversation. It wasn’t long before he began to tell me about his love of the bells.

Hand-rung church bells, he tells me, are a rare thing in the US. Only about 60 churches have them in North America. England has over 6000. He’s proud of the tradition they carry on in his church. So much so, he is eager for me to have a go at one.

So I am in the ringing room, while he lowers the spider (the actual name they have for the configuration of bell ropes). He has me grip the “sally” and give it a hard pull. The bell above me nearly yanks me off my feet in the upswing. “That’s our biggest one,” he says with pleasure. “It weighs a ton.” I don’t doubt it! I’m gratified to hear the loud dong! above me.

I must have been batty to follow him up into the belfry. The climb wasn’t difficult, but balancing on the rafters was. He, however, was as sure-footed as a mountain goat.

Back in the ringing room (thankfully!), Wood explains the “method” to the madness of pealing bells. A method is the numbered order of how the bells will be rung, and as I can see, they get quite complex, involving a team of people. A seasoned campanologist can identify the method from a casual listening.

I had no idea.

Which is what I love about finding people’s passions. There is order in the world around us that we walk blithely by. It takes someone with dedication to open our eyes and, in this case, ears to it.   The sound of church bells, becoming a rare thing in this country, is not just a resonating racket. I know now that it is an intentional, orderly invitation to remember the Lord, whether it is received as somber or joyous.

And I find that immensely appealing.

I love thy music, mellow bell,
I love thine iron chime,
To life or death, to heaven or hell,
Which calls the sons of Time.      Ralph Waldo Emerson

Father, once again, you remind us that under everything is your glorious design. How we love your laws! You govern the world with principles that we so often take for granted. Thank you for those who open our eyes to plan and pattern.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. If you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it!

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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