(This post is currently being updated frequently as events unfold so please find updates at the base of the post .)
I am sure regular blog readers will know that I am no fan of Dean Faull ,this is not based on personal bias or ill feeling due to her support of her previous city of Leicester over York in the Richard III reburial case.It is based on having had personal experience of the lady .Having spent an hour as a captive audience during a service and been forced to listen to a homily which was not only poorly researched and inaccurate but had no christian content whatsoever and had the unique effect of making the majority congregation leave wishing they had never gone and many close to tears.
The title of the post is taken from her very own words from that address “I suppose,,, you think of me as the enemy in your midst”.
I had entered the minister the day of the service wishing very much to see that any preconceptions I had about the Dean where wrong and hoped to leave feeling our Minister ,heritage and the people of Yorkshire were in safe hands .I left not only angered but feeling something very much akin to despair
Standing in the shadow of the statue of Constantine hearing people leaving bewildered and hurt ,and yes angry in some cases ,I wondered what would become of York with the Dean in charge .
I think its clear what has become of York ,its become a place where secrets are kept ,people are undervalued and heritage is ignored Its problems long hidden have now become the subject of media debate .The ministers bell ringers have been sacked and no one is really sure why .What everyone is fairly sure about rightly or wrongly is that it was the deans fault.I do not wish to be unfairly biased so I would welcome any input from those with positive comments about the dean in the comments section and will most certainly add any relevant comments to the body of the post but unfortunately I didn’t find anything online to add to this post.
It is widely felt that she has impoverished the culture of York and stamped by the imposition of silence on its streets her own power and authority to the detriment of the city.
“I live in york and am lucky enough to hear the bells regularly, Tuesday nights are wonderful as it’s bell ringing practice and a walk round york with the bells ringing is pure magic (or it was before she stopped them).
The only times the bells haven’t rung was during the second world war, so she has achieved something only Hitler has managed previously, she must be so proud of herself.”
comment extract Guardian orbitalgirl)
The current scandal is being widely reported.
While the Mail and express may have chosen their own unique way of reporting the issue the numerous comments on the posts show there is a very real problem at the Minister ,its source being the Dean ,either personally or in the form of “government” she has imposed.
There was no advance warning or consultation with the ringers
“At Tuesday’s meeting, we were told that the minster had commissioned an external report on ringing which had identified health and safety risks. As a result of this – and without any warning – the decision was taken that ringing must stop immediately. This was a complete surprise as none of the ringers had been involved in any report, nor were we aware that it was being carried out. Most frustratingly, the minster will not share this report with us or tell us what the supposed risks were.”
“We feel that our dean, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, has demonstrated time and again a wilful lack of understanding of bell ringing at the minster. Since her arrival in York in 2012, we have invited her to meet us on several occasions, but she has repeatedly not attended. We are used to having a good relationship with dean and chapter, and in the past they have joined us for dinners and social events.
The Guardian continues
“But this is a dean who, to our knowledge, has never ascended the bell tower or seen us ring, yet was willing to speak to the press on Thursday about the risks of operating in “far-flung parts of the minster” and “working at height”. As any of the ringers could have told her, no part of our ringing involves working at height:”
Dean Faulls came to York in 2012 from Leicester where she had been for 12 years .Perhaps having spent many years in a place that is primarily urban it is hard to acclimatize to a diocese that is overwhelmingly rural and she has consistently failed to consult with those who would help her understand the cares and concerns of her new flock .It’s also hard to escape the impression that she feels York needs “modernising” and shaking up,that she’s somehow fallen among backward peasants who need sorting out and teaching how the modern world works.I think also that the Arch bishop in a recent statement probably summed up the problem,while mentioning the deans compassion ,he added
“She follows procedures by the letter, she’s more rigid than some people.”
Its possible the dean is indeed a scape goat,she is unquestionably unpopular either fairly or unfairly and she may be paying the price for the decisions that have been made elsewhere.I think that you need to assume the dean is either incompetent or uncaring or both to have allowed things to reach such a pass.There is now a second petition raised due to the Deans perceived mismanagement and overbearing attitude.
(Another petition to have her replaced has also been started and the link is at the foot of this post)
The thought that the bells of York minister will not mark the passing of the year is unbelievable,to not hear them usher in the period of remembrance or welcome in Christmas day or the new year will be a great loss .Had there been some physical reason it would be sad but the silence is unnecessary and is the result of deliberate actions taken to exclude the ringers from the minister ,in a manner that reminds one of some third world dictators military coup.
The way this has been dealt with and the treatment of the bell ringers has repercussions far beyond the silencing of the bells and the silencing of the bell ringers themselves, it also shows a contempt for the workers who are necessary to keep the minister and indeed the entire church running smoothly .It may seem as though “volunteers” are some how amateurs and need taking in hand or organising ,but Bell ringing is a skilled task needing many hours and indeed years of practice ,its time-consuming and requires dedication .This is a shoddy way to repay such dedication ,its shows contempt for their skills and entirely disregards their feelings as human beings.Its also an incredibly bad management choice,Yorks bell ringers have an outstanding reputation ,imagine the England cricket or football team managers waking up one morning sacking all the team ,then sacking anyone who complained about it .
Likewise the church is built from volunteers ,,,Jesus was a carpenter who turned to spreading the word of God ,Peter a fisheman ,Matthew a Tax collector,It now exists entirely due to an army of volunteers and I doubt any church large or small can exist without them ,from the person who takes the tea towels home after a service in a small chapel to those doing the bell ringing at York.It is always these “volunteers” who are the bones and sinews of the church ,,vicars (or Deans) come and go ,but the volunteers remain ,be they the flower lady knows were the best spots are for specific arrangements ,she knows the light ,the heat the space needed and what the congregation like .The lady giving out teas ,knows each persons preferences and foibles .Volunteers keep the chruch going ,often sacrificing they precious leisure hours to do menial tasks or giving up other leisure pursuits to achieve excellence as is the case with Yorks Bellringers,No sensible vicar (or Dean) would try to impose micromanagement on these volunteers and fence them around pharisee like with an ever-increasing list of dos and dont until the only flowers likely to appear are plastic ones from china and the warm smile and welcoming word of the people serving coffee and tea are replaced by a vending machine .
Likewise Bell ringing was in our old church a family activity ,my son used to go as did other young people they mixed with older members of the congregation and took real pride in their work ,not only have the dean silenced the bells she has destroyed that part of the Ministers life.
Yorks heritage is being dismantled ,its harmony torn apart and its reputation sullied.
The focus has shifted from the relaying of the gospel in a way appropriate to the modern world but honouring the heritage of centuries to image control and damage limitation.The deans mismanagement and high handedness are pulling apart the human fabric of the Minister and a church is built of flesh and blood people not mere stones.
The precincts of the sacred Minister have become the prowling ground of fear and are being subjected to a form totalitarian rule that is utterly inappropriate in the church of God.
I was once considering applying for a post there ,but I do not feel that signing “gagging orders” or spending every working minute watching what I say or do was a work environment I would find beneficial ,,and of course I had supported the Richard III York reburial so on that basis alone I was pretty sure my application would be filed in a shredder.
I think it is probably fair to say that the Dean had managed to cause upset a plenty prior now and indeed prior to the reburial debate but that her part within the debate made matters worse and caused strife ,especially as she made very clear her loyalties still lay with her home town of Leicester .I think the Churchs management” has made a huge mistake not addressing the issue .Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter or how “out of proportion” the issues have become ,its imposible not to see that anyone who causes such a degree of division ought to be reassigned.
Whether of no it was justified the very fact of the petition raised to have her replaced after thr Richard III memorial service and the response to it would ,I feel that for anyone with any sense of care for her flock have been enough for her to seek a relocation as it was clear she had lost the trust and affection of the greater art of her flock and that the wounds caused would be slow to heal .
It is now clear that those wounds can never heal as they are being constantly added to ,its hard not to escape the impression of a dean willing to tread down anyone who opposes her ,and whose sole focus is to provide for herself a suitably stunning resume for future promotion .
Update 1 Oct 17th
The minister and Dean Faull after increasing media pressure to explain their actions eventually issued this statement
york Minster Bell Ringers
York Minster’s governing body, the Chapter of York, is responsible for ensuring that the Minster is a safe place for everyone who steps inside. This means managing and minimising risk to people and the building and includes safeguarding, health and safety and security.
Earlier this summer, it was necessary for the Chapter to take action regarding a member of the bell ringing community on safeguarding grounds. This came after complex multi-agency activity involving City of York Council, York Diocese Safeguarding Adviser and the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Officer.
The decision was taken in line with advice from safeguarding professionals, and with regard to national policies and guidance, including the Church of England’s on minimising risk to children, young people and vulnerable adults.
Some members of the York Minster Society of Change Ringers have consistently challenged the Chapter’s authority on this and other important matters.
Repeated disregard of the Chapter’s attempts to fully implement the Church’s national policies for safeguarding, health and safety and security meant that decisive action was required.
This is why the Chapter took the decision to disband the bell ringing team last week. New arrangements for bell ringing at the Minster will start in the New Year.
This suggests (if the entire story) the Dean and Minister decided to punish all the bell ringers for the actions of one and instead of understanding that the bell ringers were a close knit group and using persuasion and perhaps action against an individual ,,if indeed it was merited removed the entire talented group,,many of whom will have had no idea of any issues.I am also lead to believe that this issue had been dealt with and that no one was found to be at fault in the way described by the Dean
The bell ringers own response is here
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, delivered a statement this afternoon regarding the York Minster bell ringers.
In this statement he referred to Chapter’s decision earlier this summer to take action regarding a member of the bell ringing community on safeguarding grounds. He also stated that “some of the York Minster Society of Change Ringers have consistently challenged the Chapter’s authority on this and other important matters. Repeated disregard of the Chapter’s attempts to fully implement the Church’s national policies for safeguarding, health and safety and security meant that decisive action was required.”
The York Minster Society of Change Ringers (YMSCR) would like to clarify that, whilst we have challenged the Chapter on the fairness of some decisions, we strongly refute any suggestion that we disregarded the implementation of any of their policies. All of Chapter’s policies have been implemented in full, at all times. YMSCR take health and safety, security and safeguarding with the utmost seriousness. The Dean and Chapter have not been able to point to any evidence that suggests the contrary.
Individuals within YMSCR have privately expressed concerns to the Dean and Chapter over whether due process was followed during their action regarding a member of the bell ringing community. As a direct result of doing so, the entire team had their volunteer agreements terminated. This demonstrates that York Minster do not tolerate any questioning of their decisions, or of the processes by which these were made, even when that questioning is conducted politely and in private.
If this was the reason for the Dean and Chapter’s decision to dismiss the band last week, we do not understand why this was not communicated to us at the time, and why the Dean and Chapter misled the public by releasing several statements contradicting this. We are deeply disappointed that Dean Faull and Archbishop Sentamu have decided to release their statement this afternoon without any prior communication or consultation with YMSCR.
Now, more than ever, we feel the need to sit down and talk in private with the Dean and Chapter of York Minster to discuss these issues. We make a direct appeal to Dean Vivienne Faull and Archbishop John Sentamu to make contact and to arrange this meeting.
Update (18.00, 17th October):
Please note that, contrary to some reports, there is no ongoing investigation into any member of YMSCR, past or present.
te 2 oct 17th
It should be noted that the Dean refused the ringers offer to return to make the bells sfe for prolonged no one and instead paid for a firm from the Leicester area to do the job at some cost .
I should like to add the following from the York Bell ringers site ,I would first however like to make clear that the views expressed in my post and on my blog are my own and in no way connected to the bell ringers who have maintained a dignified stance in refusing to speculate or comment on the Dean.
This letter is to everyone who is following the current situation at York Minster regarding the band of bell ringers.
We are a group of young ringers, all under 25 years of age. We are all students in York and we feel that it is important to put across our experience as bell ringers at York Minster in the light of recent events. Bellringing groups on social media exploded on the morning of Wednesday 12th October, following the publication in the York Press of the story regarding the sudden and unexpected sacking of the Minster bell ringers. It has since spread rapidly and even made it to the BBC. Needless to say it has been difficult for any of us to concentrate recently on anything other than these saddening developments. Whilst reading many of these news articles and also comments and discussions amongst fellow bell ringers across the country on social media, several things have come to our attention that we now wish to address. We feel that it is important that you hear directly from those affected.
Firstly, there have been numerous suggestions (particularly amongst other bell ringers) that the band at the Minster is closed off and ‘elitist’. This is simply NOT true. We would like to make it clear that since arriving in York and showing an interest in ringing regularly at the Minster, we have always been made welcome and encouraged. We all made the commitment to attend both the weekly Tuesday evening practices and service ringing every Sunday and have consequently made tremendous progress; some of us had never rung on 12 bells before yet we were all welcome as long as we made the commitment to attend regularly.
The quality of ringing is of a very high standard and consequently it could sometimes be daunting, wondering whether we would succeed, but that is pressure that we put on ourselves through a desire to improve, and the rest of the band have always been inclusive and encouraging. We have made some very firm friends as a result of ringing at the Minster and were welcomed quickly into the group, invited to drinks at the pub afterwards as well as to Christmas meals and annual dinners. Two new members were elected to the Minster society only last week which shows that the band is ever-evolving, dynamic and welcoming.
The strong friendships we have made are demonstrated by the success of our under 30’s quarter peal this year, the average age of the band was 24 and the quality of the ringing was excellent and maintained throughout. This is also a testament to the diversity of the band. Having enough capable younger ringers to ring a quarter peal of ‘Plain Bob Cinques’ on such a challenging set of bells is quite an achievement.
This raises another point about the bells themselves. Many of us had been ringers in various parts of the country for several years previously, in some cases as long as 10 years, before arriving at York Minster. Regardless of that it took us all a significant amount of time to get used to handling the bells and even longer to learn how to strike them properly in order to keep up the impressive standard which has been maintained at the Minster for so long. Bellringing is a difficult skill to master and takes lots of time, commitment and dedication. This makes the recent discarding of the band by the Dean and Chapter all the more disappointing. It also demonstrates an apparent lack of understanding on their part about what ringing these bells involves which could have been avoided had they not shown such an apparent unwillingness to visit the tower to learn more which they were invited to do on several occasions.
There have also been suggestions that the Minster bellringers were unwilling to comply with requests from the Dean and Chapter and unwilling to change and adapt. This is not true. We have complete and total faith in our committee and in our Ringing Master, Peter Sanderson, that he always met with the Chapter when it was requested, made sure that new policies were implemented whilst keeping the rest of us updated, and tried to stay in constant touch with the Minster authorities. Regrettably, we have always felt that the same level of commitment, communication and understanding was lacking from them. One recent example of this was the introduction of a new sign-in sheet with which we all complied every time we entered and left the tower. If the reasons behind this policy were explained, they were certainly not fully understood, but regardless the whole band was happy to comply.
We are still all deeply upset and shocked by our exclusion from the tower. Fortunately we believe that the friendships within the band are strong enough to withstand this difficult time, and we will still keep ringing even if for the foreseeable future it cannot be at the Minster. The friendships, dedication and skill that we have all developed as a result of ringing at the Minster will be with us always.
From the ‘Student Ringers of York Minster
The following is an earlier post from the sites news page ,it includes the update the deans decision to pay to have the bells properly stood ,,despite the ringers offering to do it for free,I would suggest needless expenditure ought to be the subject of inquiry as I am sure some other bell ringers would also have been happy to do this,,unless the dean did not want someone there who was not subject to the same controls that can be imposed on contractors
The ringers page
“We should like to make it clear via this post that none of the (former) York Minster ringers wish to be associated with the personal attacks on the Dean of York or the nickname published in the Times today (15th October 2016). Please could we ask that all personal attacks on the Dean of York cease?
The ringers are grateful for all the support we have received locally, nationally and from around the world. We did not call in the media ourselves following Tuesday’s meeting and subsequent denial of access, but find ourselves having to respond to increasing media attention and bafflement.
The whole situation is very sad. We have learnt that the Minster are now employing a bellfoundry to ring the bells down (for a fee) rather than accept our offer to make them safe free of charge.
We would still like the situation to be resolved through talks and reconciliation but there has been to date no response from the Dean or Chapter on this open offer.”
From an earlier news page
Dear all visitors,
you have probably arrived here having read the news.
If not, please see the York Press website or other media regarding the axing of the York Minster bellringers October 2016.
As far as we know, the ban is a blanket one, therefore, to anyone hoping for bells for your wedding or other events such as ordinations, marathons, Tour de Yorkshire or similar, our apologies. Those booked in as visiting bands, or for peal attempts, please keep in touch- we will let you know any updates. Obviously, anyone who was thinking of joining us as a visitor for practise or service ringing, do understand you will be welcome back another time.
There is a petition to request ringing at key services over the coming months, namely Remembrance Sunday, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve, and there is an option to sign and/or share if you so wish.
The Minster authorities are doing a very thorough job of cleansing their website of all references to the bells. Articles referencing recent ringing have been removed; ringers have been removed from the volunteers section; the books and CDs appear to have been pulled from the online shop. The Minster Twitter feed apologises for ‘essential maintenance’ a couple of days ago. However, the book, “The Bells and Bellringers of York Minster” is available to purchase still through us, details under the “publications” tab.
Lastly, a copy below of the open letter to the Dean of York Minster, from our esteemed Ringing Master (“head bell ringer”) of 10 years
There is information, issued by the Minster, being quoted in the media which is simply wrong. In particular I read that I “was not accountable to the Chapter – a situation the body wishes to change by creating a new Head of the Bell Tower role”. As you know, I was appointed to the position of Ringing Master by Chapter in 2006 and have remained fully accountable to them ever since, always implementing Chapter’s policies as requested and being willing to work co-operatively with Chapter to resolve any issues as they have arisen. That is at it should be and as it was until Tuesday evening.
The Minster bellringers are a happy, united, vibrant, skilled, and dedicated team which has grown and evolved over the past forty years to become the envy of many Cathedrals and parish churches across the country. It includes ringers aged from 11 years to 70 plus. It matters not a jot whether it is me or someone else who leads the band into the next decade but to see this wonderful team discarded by Chapter on Tuesday evening with no warning and in such a brutal fashion was heartbreaking beyond measure. The letters of termination handed out to members were headed “York Minster invites everyone to discover God’s love”. Such doublespeak would hardly be out of place in George Orwell’s most famous work.
You have also referred in the media to the review of the operation of the bell tower which raised health and safety concerns. That review was commissioned by Chapter, undertaken and completed without the knowledge of the bellringers and with no opportunity for them to provide input. Nor have the results ever been shared with us. I’m afraid that this is typical of the secrecy with which the Minster operates under the current leadership team under your direction.
When you arrived as Dean in 2012 the ringers invited you on several occasions to visit the bell-tower and meet the team. You declined all of those invitations and have never to my knowledge ascended the tower. As significant grievances between the ringers and Chapter have arisen over the past 18 months I have made numerous offers to meet with you and to work together to resolve them. You have rejected every one of those offers.
Nevertheless, I make that offer again now: to meet with you and your team; to discuss honestly and openly all of the concerns which exist; and to find ways in which the current situation can be amicably resolved. With such an approach the Minster bells could, and should, be heard again very soon.
Peter Sanderson (Ringing Master, York Minster Society of Change Ringers) “
The reverberations from the York Minster bell ringing row have now echoed beyond our island borders.
News of the Dean and Chapter’s decision to disband the bell ringing team, and silence the belfry until at least Easter next year, has shocked the international bell ringing community.
The American Bell Association, based in Miami, Florida, but with members across the country, reported the news on its Facebook page, the leadership saying it was “saddened, and a little angry”.
Elsewhere European group The Children of Quasimodo posted: “Our sympathies are with the Bellringers of York Minster in England, they just got ousted from ringing for ‘administrational reasons’”.
I have to wonder whether there’s more to this than meets the eye.
Surely, even the most evil, scheming inHuman Resources abomination would not conceive of dismissing volunteers of many years standing in such a way, with no consultation, no notice, and locking the door in their face. Surely?
Pointing out that the story has led to “national, if not international, condemnation of York Minster”, the Lord Mayor adds: “A spectacular piece of foot-shooting which will disadvantage the Minster itself, as well as people involved in the Service of Remembrance, celebrants of Christmas, and New Year.
“Utterly bizarre behaviour!”
Futher update a new petition has been started to have the dean removed,the issue is that regardless of culpability in this issue
“Whatever the cause of the dispute with the bell ringers, she has acted with her habitual high-handed, dictatorial manner and well-known lack of people skills. She has made herself a laughing stock in the national media, with comment after comment calling her behaviour unChristian. She has become an embarrassment to the Minster, and to York. She is not fit for purpose in the role of Dean.”
dear, the response of the Minster management to complaints is now to sack the complainers. A great example of the exercise of God’s Love. It is blindingly clear that the Minster has a major management dysfunction originating in control freakery and arbitrary and arrogant exercise of power. The relevant authorities need to do something and fast before the publicity gets any worse. if it possibly could get any worse than refusing to ring the bells on Remembrance Sunday.