Religiosity in Heritage Skills
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26-10-2014, 08:29 AM
Religiosity in Heritage Skills
Is worth speaking about this in general, but I'm just going to be talking in this OP about a specific thing.

Recently I had a long day out which ended in visiting a tower open day at a local Minster (basically a big church used as HQ for a region of churches historically), and as I was one of the only people who showed up all day I got quite a long tour of the belfry and other parts of the tower and a one to one lesson on how to ring a church bell. Afterwards I was invited to join the bell ringer club for initial lessons, then eventually on to actually providing service as a bell ringer; and of course getting a new group of friends to go to the pub with on some evenings. :L
There was nothing really religious about the tour; it was mainly about the mechanics and history of bell ringing with a bit about the architecture and history of the Minster itself. The invitation to join the club had no religious stuff in either, and neither did the information leaflet I was given to go home with. But, of course, the fundamental job of a bell ringing club is to call in the congregation on Sunday morning, and to send them off again after service, and of course attending the service sort of comes along with that.
Personally I don't have a problem attending a traditional English church service once in a while; in fact I've often attended services just so I can get into heritage sites without paying the tourist entry fee, but making a weekly thing of it I'm not sure I'd be too happy with. Of course too I can imagine it would cause tensions with other people to have someone there who isn't really engaged with what is going on during service. Of course I wouldn't be creating a scene, but I'm sure it wouldn't be a secret for too long that I'm an atheist.
On top of all that though I would be practicing a heritage skill dating back 400 years which evolved from a very similar skill going back another 1000 years before that.
Many heritage skills come into religion in come way just because of the nature of human history. Historical military reenactment requires the use and understanding of many religious symbols and saying; historical crafting requires the same understanding in greater detail; and if you are a builder who is trained in heritage masonry and building techniques you're going to spend most of your time in service to a church. Bell ringing is more direct though as the applications are purely in service to a religious group, but of course keeping these skills and knowledge alive is extremely important to our identity and our understanding of where we came from. I tend to live by the idea that keeping history firmly in hand is the best way we can know how the present will affect the future.

I'm rather split on this one though. On one hand I like to get off the holding whenever I can and I like to learn any heritage skills I can, but on the other hand I don't like the idea of contributing to religious services or having to regularly attend them.

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Leonard Nimoy
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28-10-2014, 12:43 PM
RE: Religiosity in Heritage Skills
As I understood, you are thinking of joining a bell ringing 'team' to learn about christian history, I don't know about your religious upbringing but I was religious for a great deal of my life, so praying, singing praise songs, and crossing myself became like a ritual, I still cross myself when I enter a church (and I still enter churches because I'm still in the closet, I know it's a bit hypocritical but that's how the closet works, people shouldn't know you're an atheist) anyway when I cross myself I don't feel any 'religious' I feel it's a natural reaction like washing your face when you wake up, but you wouldn't want to do all that.

My advice is maybe there are christian heritage\history classes in a nearby community college you can take, that would be way better than go against your 'beliefs' and by the way you can enter a church without having to be religion.
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31-10-2014, 05:34 AM
RE: Religiosity in Heritage Skills
I actually went back for another taster day and decided to bring it up with the teacher; it turns out that on the team one of them is a pagan, one is a catholic and one more is an atheist, with the two other members being Anglicans who are full members of the church's congregation. It really made me think just how easy it is to be an Atheist in Britain. I actually feel kind of guilty about it to be honest, considering the hard time a lot of people have in a lot of countries.

I'm still not sure if I will join the club, but I at least have the benefit now of knowing that I won't be clashing with the other members of the club on religious grounds...
I think it would be very interesting to have a skill which would get me access to private areas in a lot of old buildings actually, and of course making loud noises is one of the basic fun activities in the life of a man xD

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Leonard Nimoy
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31-10-2014, 01:46 PM
RE: Religiosity in Heritage Skills
Back in the 70's I had a girlfriend who was a bell ringer at the Parish church in a medium sized market town in Lincolnshire. I went with her a few times and it was just like a social club with a common interest. There were people of all ages and backgrounds, no doubt some were religious in one way or another but the subject never came up. As far as I know none of them ever attended the services, there again the full peal of bells were only used for weddings, Christmas etc. For calling to worship they only used a single bell which the vicar rang himself with an extended rope that reached into the vestry. Most of the ringing was done when the church was empty.
As an added bonus she and therefore me as well were welcomed to look around any and every church tower we wanted to. She just told them she rang the bells at home and could she see their bells.
I guess what I am taking a long way round to say is Do it if you want. I don't see any negatives and I don't think you will ever be required to join in with any of the services. As you said learning heritage skills is good and you are not signing up for life.
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Steve

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