Photo by Tony Cece

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Regent Students Discover the Glory of God

By Dr. Peter Fraser
Our Literary trip to England has taken a few weeks to digest fully because we saw and did so much in our nine days abroad. From our initial witnessing of the Changing of the Guard in a London drizzle and subsequent tour of the grandeurs of Westminster Abbey to our final day’s tour of the Tower of London with all of its dark history, we were overwhelmed with rich experiences. The trip was designed to help students understand British literature and the Christian tradition, and it easily accomplished that goal. The journals the students kept were glowing.
For me the culminating experience took place in a bell tower at Christ Church Spitalfields, just down the street from our hotel, the Wynfrid House, and a few blocks off London’s notorious Brick Lane, an artists’ enclave with a street full of open shops and galleries and ethnic restaurants. A member of Christ Church Spitalfields, Alan Regin, had agreed to get together a group of ringers to illustrate for our group how change ringing is done. There isn’t much of this in the States because fewer than fifty churches have multiple bells in their towers. In England, there are many more.
Change ringing is the musical art of bell ringing in which groups of trained ringers pull their bell ropes in precise mathematical sequences sometimes for hours on end. Our ringers had recently done a three-hour change. The record for the church was over eleven hours. As one of the novels we were reading was Dorothy Sayers’ The Nine Tailors, which features a murder committed in a bell tower during a record-breaking ring, this tower exercise for us had a very immediate literary connection.
But the ring had a richer connection still. Imagine climbing a set of narrow stone steps into the belfry of an old church with stone walls and no hand railing to guide you. At the top you enter a room the size of a modest classroom with eight ropes dangling through openings in the wooden ceiling. There eight very ordinary, yet distinctively British ringers of all ages and backgrounds stand ready to pull the ropes at the direction of the lead ringer. Once they begin, the room swells with the melodies of the grand old bells ringing out the glory of God throughout that section of the city. The bells can be heard for miles. What an experience!
Regent’s mission to encourage global experiences took on life in that tower and all throughout our trip. There are some things in life like love and faith and English change ringing that you have to experience to appreciate.
Dr. Peter Fraser is an Associate Professor and the Chair of the Language and Literature Department at Regent University. Dr. Fraser is an author of several books. He was also the trip leader for the Literary Oxford Study Abroad trip. Are you interested in participating in a study abroad trip? Click here for upcoming trips and additional information.

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