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Two years ago, the Diocesan Bell Ringers decided to mark the 450th anniversary of the Diocese by raising the bulk of the cost of installing a new ring of bells at the Cross & Stable Church in Downs Barn, Milton Keynes. Although there is still more money to raise, the bells were installed in May and on September 5th, were dedicated by the Bishop during the Sunday morning service.
The congregation was swollen by visitors. There were representatives from all the other churches in Milton Keynes, ringers from Kingstone, Herefordshire whose old bells were bought by Downs Barn, representatives of the bell founders and bell hangers and ringers from across the Diocese. The service was an ecumenical one (the Lima Liturgy), though it bore a striking resemblance to the newer Anglican ones. The two Methodists from the next parish sitting next to me said it had taken some getting used to.
The Bishop gave a thoughtful, but amusing address, referring among other things to people who move next to churches and complain about bells, and motorway service stations, (his example of the opposite of a true community). The dedication proper preceded the actual communion. It all took place in the ringing gallery, (which is a lot closer to the congregation than ours). Each bell was blessed and rung up in turn, before all the bells were rung together.
At the end of the service, the minister had a surprise sprung on her in the form of two large cakes which she and her predecessor who had started the bells project, were asked to cut. After the blessing, we were instructed to remain in our seats while the local band rang the bells. We had glasses of wine or orange juice, and pieces of the cake brought to us.
There followed much ringing for all of us on the excellent new bells, and much chatter below for everyone (which made the ringing harder to hear). So ended a memorable occasion in the life of both Downs Barn and the Diocese.
John Harrison (Oct 1993)
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