From Abilene Public Radio:
If you’ve never heard of something called “change ringing,” you’re not alone. Change ringing is a musical performance that requires a team of people pulling ropes that ring giant bells in a precise order. It’s more popular in eastern states, but Texas has five churches with a bell tower built for change ringing – including one in Abilene.
On a recent Sunday three men climbed the narrow winding staircase to reach the top of the bell tower of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene, they gripped ropes that stretched through the ceiling, connecting to large bronze bells.
“So what we have to do before we actually ring is we have to ring the bell up, we have to turn it upside down,” Ringing Master Lynn Blair said.
Once the bells are ready, the men start to perform what they call a method, each ringing his bell in a specific order. Inside the tower you can hear rocking and creaking sounds in addition to the chiming of bells. Change ringing comes from the Church of England, where every parish had at least one bell to call the faithful to worship. The tradition made its way to America along with the colonists. Today, it’s described as a musical performance and an actual team sport.
It doesn’t take long for Tower Captain Robert Partin to become short of breath and for good reason- his bell weighs 600 pounds.
“It’s a good exercise when we ring constant for 30 or 40 minutes,” Partin said. “It’s a good exercise coming up the dang stairs.”
To him, change ringing is challenging and fun. And it’s not something that everyone can do.
“We’re kind of an isolated little oasis for change ringing and we’re lucky to have this tower here because it’s not something that any church can just decide that they’re going to do,” Partin said.