There possibly are no still-active ringers who heard the King’s Christmas message in December 1939.
His late Majesty, King George VI, ended his radio speech by quoting from a poem:
“I said to the Man who stood at the gate of the year, give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
Some may remember that poem and some may even remember that it was written by Minnie Haskell (although His Majesty did not acknowledge the fact).What is surely true is that if it formed a part of the Queen’s Christmas speech this year it would not seem in the least out of place.
In the grip of a continuing global pandemic, with increasingly difficult rules governing our bell ringing, the image of a safe and sure guiding hand to hold onto is a powerful one. Well, how do you get on with ringing while wearing a mask, measuring your distance, opening windows to the fresh winter breezes, etc.? I know that many towers are not going to be able to ring at Christmas nor to ring the New Year in.
But all is not lost. This curse of Covid cannot last for ever.
Meanwhile, there are some ringers who are busily learning new methods to ring as and when; new callings, new quarters; fresh plans for recruiting and training new ringers, young and not so young.
Actually, a prayer for use “In this time of common Plague and Sickness” is included in the Book of Common Prayer and it could well be used now!
Minnie Haskell’s poem continues: “Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” Good advice.
Starting the New Year on a ring and a prayer, maybe.So, let us pray for a safe and peaceful New Year and a return to the known ways of ringing.
In the time of any common Plague of Sickness.
O ALMIGHTY God, who in thy wrath didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in the time of king David, didst slay with the plague of pestilence threescore and ten thousand, and yet remembering thy mercy didst save the rest: Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.