Welcome to our website entry, and if you are a potential visitor to our tower, whether to ring (we will welcome you with open arms!) or to watch us ringing and learn what it’s about (we will greet you warmly, take you upstairs to see the bells, show you how we raise and ring the bells, and answer all your questions) – please do come and see us. You will find a very warm reception here. The sound of church bells has become an iconic symbol of worship in the Christian Church, informing listeners that a service is about to start, and inviting worshipers. Rochester’s Church of the Ascension is pleased and proud to have such a set of bells in its tower, newly installed on September 12, 2015.
There are many things that make these bells a special feature in the Rochester community. They do not ring tunes, they ring changes on the order of the bells. From our home in western New York, the nearest similar change-ringing bell tower is in Toronto, Canada (175 miles away); and if we stay in this country, the nearest are in Pittsburgh (300 miles), Kent School, Kent, CT (also about 300 miles), New York City (340 miles), and Philadelphia (350 miles). For more information about change ringing at other bell towers in North America, see www.nagcr.org. For more information about ringing and bells worldwide, see www.cccbr.org.uk
There are ten bells at Ascension hung for change ringing (defined as the ringing of sets of church bells or handbells in a constantly varying order; see Wikipedia for basic and general information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Change_ringing).
Our lightest bell, “Trudy”, weighs 375 pounds, the heaviest, “Martin”, weighs 1267 pounds. Each bell is inscribed with one or two appropriate lines from Stanza 106 of “In Memoriam” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The Ascension bells came to life across the Atlantic, in London, England, where the workers at Whitechapel Bell Foundry drew up the plans, cast and tuned the bells, and made the frame and fittings that enable them to swing. Everything was shipped to Church of the Ascension, and installed in the waiting church tower.
The Ceremony of Blessing and Dedication took place on November 21, 2015, with The Right Reverend Prince G. Singh, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, presiding, alongside the Rector, the Reverend Dahn D. Gandell. The dedication service began with Bishop Singh climbing the 30 spiral steps to the bell chamber wearing his robes, and there blessing them, sprinkling them with water, and wafting incense over them. The service continued, once the Bishop was safely back at ground level, with welcome, hymns, prayers, psalms, and a fair amount of talking by Chris and Helen Haller, the major donors of the bells.
When at least two ringers are available, we ring the bells before and after the 10:15 AM Sunday service. It takes one ringer per bell, pulling on a rope that passes through the ceiling to the next level above, where the bells are, to ring his or her bell. The ringers practice twice a week, for an hour and a half after lunch on Sunday afternoons, and on Friday evenings between 6:30 and 8 PM.
If you are considering a visit to ring or to watch the ringing, please check with Chris Haller (585-203-7457; firstname.lastname@example.org) to confirm that ringing will take place on your proposed date. Also call Chris if you think you are interested in learning to ring; a series of one-on-one lessons can be arranged at mutual convenience, to make you ready to ring with the band in the regular practices.