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Handbell Guidelines for Sundays in a Pandemic

If you are a church musician, especially a handbell ringer, the last time you practiced was likely months ago. Or maybe your church is slowly allowing ringers and choirs to play again, albeit under irregular circumstances.

If you’re looking for ways to safely rehearse or for music suggestions for upcoming Sundays, you’re in the right place. Check out the downloadable PDF below, which contains handbell music suggestions for Sundays now through May 2021. These selections include options for 2-octave and 3-octave handbells, composer information, and more. Get ready to ring joyfully!

Meeting for Handbells with Social Distancing Guidelines

If you and your ringers are reintegrating into worship, consider the following safety protocols and directions to restart small handbell groups:

  1. Ask ringers about their comfort level, and consider working with a smaller group.
    Find out how many ringers are ready to return to playing and rehearsing. Ask them if they are comfortable using three or four bells instead of just two. Based on the feedback you receive, it may be possible to ring with fewer participants. For individuals who are not quite ready to return, assure them it’s ok, and encourage them to rejoin the group whenever they feel comfortable. Ask ringers how they feel about rehearsing for a half hour or for fifty minutes and if they are able to wear a mask and gloves for the duration of worship services and practices.
  1. Use simpler music.
    With fewer ringers and limited rehearsal time, it may be prudent to use simpler music for the time being. For groups of five to seven ringers, 2-octave music is a good option. For slightly larger groups, 3-octave music is possible. Consider music that your ringers are familiar with. If you want to use newer tunes, choose ones with clean melodies and harmonies. The handbell list below offers some inspiration.
  1. Assign handbell gloves for ringers ahead of time.
    Give each ringer a pair of gloves. Ask that they not only bring these to each rehearsal and worship service but also take them home afterward to clean. 
  2. Find a large, ventilated space for practices and services.
    This will likely depend on the size of your group, the size of your church, and the available rooms with enough table space for the bells. Each ringer should have his or her own music sheets, gloves, handbells, table space, and music stand. Limit the length of rehearsal when possible, or plan to take regular breaks to let air circulate.
  1. Consider dividing into several small groups.
    If you have many volunteer ringers, it may be helpful to split them into groups of five to ten ringers for practicing and playing in worship. Assign each group a weekly practice, and create a rotating schedule so everyone is able to participate. For example, Group A could rehearse the first and third weeks of the month. Group B might rehearse on the second and forth weeks of the month. 
  2. Follow local safety guidelines.
    Wear masks and gloves before, during, and after rehearsals and worship services; take temperatures; and sanitize hands before, during, and after playing. It’s also important to sanitize music stands, tables, and the handbells themselves.

Before finalizing anything, be sure to let the pastors, elders, and other leaders at your church know of the plan to restart handbells. With a bit of forethought, safety precautions, and patience, you and your ringers will be playing again soon.


To find suggestions for your small handbell group throughout the Church Year, download the free PDF below. 

Download the PDFs

Written by

Allison Lewis

Allison Lewis is a marketing content specialist at Concordia Publishing House. She is a native St. Louisan, a proud Mizzou J-School graduate, and a huge fan of Blues hockey and Cardinals baseball. Outside of work, Allison enjoys traveling, working out, book club, trying new recipes, and spending time with family and friends.

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