*** Updated Friday 21 October
There have been a lot of reports of the decision taken by the authorities at York Minster with respect to the Minster bellringers. The BBC’s coverage begins here with the headline “York Minster bells silenced after bell-ringers axed for ‘new team’”. In a letter shown on the BBC page, the Precentor of York, Canon Peter Moger writes to the ringers:
Chapter will recruit a Head Bell Ringer, who will then oversee the recruitment and activity of a new team of volunteer bell ringers. In order to begin this process, all current bell ringing activity will cease at the Minster, from today, Tuesday 11th October.
The York Minster Society of Change Ringers responded with this statement in which the Ringing Master, Peter Sanderson, commented:
I was appointed to the position of Ringing Master by Chapter in 2006 and have remained fully accountable to them ever since, always implementing Chapter’s policies as requested and being willing to work co-operatively with Chapter to resolve any issues as they have arisen. … You have also referred in the media to the review of the operation of the bell tower which raised health and safety concerns. That review was commissioned by Chapter, undertaken and completed without the knowledge of the bellringers and with no opportunity for them to provide input. Nor have the results ever been shared with us. I’m afraid that this is typical of the secrecy with which the Minster operates under the current leadership team under your direction. … When you arrived as Dean in 2012 the ringers invited you on several occasions to visit the bell-tower and meet the team. You declined all of those invitations and have never to my knowledge ascended the tower. As significant grievances between the ringers and Chapter have arisen over the past 18 months I have made numerous offers to meet with you and to work together to resolve them. You have rejected every one of those offers.
On Monday in a further brief statement, the Minster said that the issue was about safeguarding:
Earlier this summer, it was necessary for the Chapter to take action regarding a member of the bell ringing community on safeguarding grounds. … Some members of the York Minster Society of Change Ringers have consistently challenged the Chapter’s authority on this and other important matters. … This is why the Chapter took the decision to disband the bell ringing team last week.
This statement was read by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu (as Visitor) and has been released on video here. It is followed by questions and answers.
In their response, here, the ringers have again appealed to the Dean and Archbishop to talk to them:
We are deeply disappointed that Dean Faull and Archbishop Sentamu have decided to release their statement this afternoon without any prior communication or consultation with YMSCR. Now, more than ever, we feel the need to sit down and talk in private with the Dean and Chapter of York Minster to discuss these issues. We make a direct appeal to Dean Vivienne Faull and Archbishop John Sentamu to make contact and to arrange this meeting.
*** Update (Friday 21 October)
There has been a lot of press coverage of this story. The Church Times summarizes how the story unfolded in an article headlined Safeguarding issue silences bells of York Minster, and the Guardian does similarly under the headline How York Minster bellringers’ sacking blew the lid off bitter dispute.
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