'Deeply inappropriate' - vicar rules out ringing church bells on Brexit day
PUBLISHED: 11:46 14 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:28 14 January 2020
© Archant Norfolk 2013
A Norfolk vicar has ruled out a councillor's request to chime a market town's church bells to mark Britain's exit from the EU - branding it "deeply inappropriate".
Swaffham town councillor Lindsay Beech has called for church bells to be rung at 11pm on January 31, signalling the moment Britain will leave the European Union.
Her proposal is due to be discussed at Swaffham Town Council's next meeting on Wednesday, January 15.
Hardline Brexiteers including Mark Francois had pushed for Big Ben to chime symbolically, in the hope it will bring "closure" to national divisions.
But the Reverend Janet Allen, vicar at St Peter and St Paul Church in Swaffham, has categorically ruled out the bells being rung in her parish.
"My view is that Brexit has been such a divisive issue that it would be deeply inappropriate to ring the bells," said Revd Allen. "It is simply not a matter for church bells to be involved with.
"Our job as a church is to bring people together, so no - we will not be ringing our bells in this situation.
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"The Christian church is about hope and about reconciliation. Brexit is instead a political issue that has deeply divided us as a nation, and churches are hopefully focused on trying to bring everybody together.
"People in my parish voted different ways so it will be nice now to get back together and get on with things once Brexit is done with."
She added that she had not been directly approached by Mrs Beech regarding the proposal, and emphasised the church's willingness to ring the bells on occasions including VE Day.
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Norwich has clarified its position on the ringing of bells in relation to Brexit, highlighting the importance of churches retaining their Christian ethos.
It has, however, said the final decision lies with parishes across Norfolk and Waveney.
A spokesman said: "The Diocese of Norwich has no policy on the ringing of church bells for Brexit. It is at the discretion of local clergy, churchwardens and the PCC at each individual church.
"We would encourage consideration of the wider feelings of the local community, recognising the variety of views.
"Our Christian response is always one of hope and reconciliation."
Swaffham deputy town clerk Claire Smith confirmed the proposal will be up for discussion at Wednesday's meeting.
Lindsay Beech was contacted for comment.