Tower Offices / Responsibilities

In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Compensation” (1841)

Many hands make light work.John Haywood, Proverbs (1538)


The tower library has books on this topic:


A typical set of tower offices is:

  • Tower captain — in overall charge of everything (but doesn’t do it all him/herself).
  • Steeplekeeper — in charge of the bells, mechanism, ropes, etc., and the human repository of knowledge about how to care for them, ready to teach upcoming steeplekeepers.
  • Assistant steeplekeeper — some tasks can’t be done safely or even at all without two people.  In some towers the rule is that no one works in the belfry alone, for safety’s sake.
  • Ringing master — runs the ringing sessions, or is in responsible for ringing but delegates running particular sessions to another ringer. Rob notes this can be further divided between a practices ringing master and a service ringing master.
  • Secretary — keeps records of what goes on, corresponds with NAGCR and other groups.  I recommend that the secretary make this blog the record of what goes on.
  • Treasurer — responsible for the tower fund.
  • Librarian — in charge of the tower library, new book acquisition, and managing circulation.

Some specific tasks that arise in our tower and could be split out into separate offices are:

  • Instruction master — teaching learners, coaching new/intermediate ringers (could be split into two offices for that reason)
  • Safety master(s) — ready to step in when a ringer needs help.
  • Liaison with the Cathedral — Jim does this currently so I hardly even know what’s involved, but I know it goes on.
  • Public relations and community liaison — I’m not good at this and there’s been plenty else to do, so no one’s doing it … but clearly there’s good stuff that could be done that would help the tower.
  • Youth / community service liaison — we’re not doing anything in this area, but some towers do it big time.
  • Recruiting — every tower needs a steady trickle of learners and new ringers.
  • Ringing chamber manager — vacuuming, cleanup, decoration, furnishings, filling the water jug, stocking the first aid box, taking out the trash, watering the orchid if we had one.
  • Attendance wrangler — riding herd on the attendance dudle, ensuring we have enough ringers committed for each session, lightly “encouraging” ringers to come (“git along, li’l ringers …“), track past attendance.  I’ve been doing this and it is essential that it continue.  The task can be subdivided if several people are willing.
  • Webmaster — managing the mailing list, running this blog if the secretary doesn’t, technical help with the dudles, coming up with new things we could be doing online.
  • Ringing guru — answering questions, planning where we should be heading with our ringing, planning quarters and (someday) peals, figuring out what ringing would help the band.
  • Organizational growth mentor — matching ringers with new responsibiities, mentoring their growth into those responsibilities, framing learning goals and skills targets.  Prime focus is on growing a band that is better (stronger, friendlier, volunteer-ier, more supportive, more resilient, more active, …) in every important way than it was when you joined.  We have the bells now, but others will have them in five, ten, fifty years, and we have a responsibility to those future ringers as well as to each other.

Our band has been small, with only a handful of active ringers, and (as happens in many towers) it looks like we’ve always had one person who does just about everything that gets done, plus Jim who as Cathedral treasurer also acts as de facto tower treasurer and Cathedral liaison.  But … we’re not small any more.

Having one person who does virtually everything means that ringers are reluctant to take that job on, because it’s a big commitment and a big responsibility.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  We can and should divide up the tower tasks so that any ringer who feels moved to do so can make a manageably-sized yet really useful contribution to the band.  It’s kind to your fellow ringers to do so, it’s a way to repay the efforts of those who did it for you, and it can be personally very rewarding.  Also, a lot of this is not so much doing stuff as being qualified and ready to do stuff when it’s needed.  For example, we need someone who can teach learners, but we don’t need someone to teach learners 52 weeks a year;  we need someone who can do local PR when needed, but we don’t need a press release every day;  and we need someone who knows how to retuck the rope tails when needed (for example), but it doesn’t have to be done often.

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3 thoughts on “Tower Offices / Responsibilities

  1. This adds up to 17 jobs and as you know there are only about 8 of us that come fairly regularly. I don’t think we can realistically function like the Washington Cathedral functions. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from committing to any or several of these responsibilities if they are so inclined, however over the past many years I have found that brow beating and guilt is not an effective motivator. If people are not able to commit, that is their prerogative and so be it. We should not stand in judgement of each others priorities, in my opinion.

  2. No tower ever functions exactly like another, or exactly like the same tower 10 years before. That is one of the pleasures of ringing — that everything changes as new band members join. It’s worth knowing how other towers function and seeing if some of that can be adapted to local needs. In reality, and especially with small bands, one person seems to do many of the major jobs listed, and others don’t get done at all, but with some new and enthusiastic members, we can cover quite a few of the tasks if people would like to 🙂
    With all the progress that has been made, there is real hope of keeping the band going and not letting it dwindle. We have some potentially really good ringers coming on and it would be great to be able to keep the band going so that they can progress further.

  3. PS I have been looking really hard at what I can realistically do to contribute, apart from turning up and running ringing when required, but the fact that I can be there at best 12 weeks of the year does limit options somewhat. Is there anything that the band thinks I can take on that would help to keep things going? Xx

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