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What is proper church bell ringing etiquette?


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Answered 2011-09-13 17:36:02

regarding bell ringing in Catholic Churches:

The bells are rung (i) to summons parishioners to Mass (ii) to announce the Angelus at noon and at 6pm (iii) as part of a Funeral service (iv) to celebrate the church's Patron Saint.... and at Weddings.

To summons parishioners to Mass, the bell is normally rung 15 minutes prior to the time of the Mass. The amount of times the bell is sounded is of personal choice of the bell ringer or with the advice of the parish priest. Normally around 15 times. However, a lot depends on the location of any neighbors. Not everybody likes the ringing of church bells at 7 am on a Sunday morning!

The Angelus bell is rung at 12 midday and at 6pm. It has 18 rings> one two three:- short pause;- one two three;- short pause;- one two three:- short pause and then nine times.

The bell at a funeral is again as normal for summonsing the faithful : and also at the end of the funeral mass, as the coffin is carried down the church : and it is customary for the bell maintain ringing until the hearse has departed from the church (or if the cemetery is alongside the church - until the pall bearers reach the grave. This bell is rung slowly, not at the pace of a ''summonsing to church bell''. So, when at the end of the funeral mass, the pall bearers lift the coffin onto their shoulders ( or the coffin is wheeled down the aisle) the bell should be rung slowly : ring count to 15 ring and so on.......

The church bells can also be rung in celebration , normally after an important ceremony- like on the day of the Patron Saint of the church, or at the end of a large ecclesiastical ceremony......and quite quickly ( not really possible with automatic bells unless you want the mechanism to explode thru the tower to add to the proceedings).

Another occasion is the conclusion of a wedding. Please note: This again requires vigorous bell-ringing. ( NOT funeral-type ringing)

We now come to what the bell is for. A church bell is part of the Religious life of a community. It should not be used to celebrate things like New Years Midnight, the return of the local victorious what-ever-team, the upsurge in the value of the local currency or the imminent arrival of a Earth destroying meteor. However, the use of the church bell will depend a lot on the mood of the general population. With general agreement all round, it can be use for community celebrations, but this is not a valid reason for ringing the bell, which is after all part of the religious aspect of the church. (Common sense should rule the day).

Some people like the regularity of the ringing of a church bell. And there is something special in hearing the distant peel of a church bell on a summers Sunday morning.

One important thing : If the church bell is going to be rung , IT MUST BE ALWAYS! After a while hearing the bell, people will automatically accept the accuracy of its ringing. Even non-christians will understand the time of day the bell is rung.

It is a good idea to have an automatic bell......but there is something magic about the bell ringer heading to the church in the pounding rain, crippled with Arthritis and suffering a bad flu.....every day of the year !!!!

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