Course G – William Mathis, Instructor

Handbells/Handchimes in Worship


Bells in Worship is one of the optional courses in the Certification Program. This course will explore various ways in which bells and chimes can be in a leadership role in worship and other areas of the life of a congregation.

As a result of this course, students will:

  • Have a better understanding of a variety of forms of worship
  • Learn to choose repertoire appropriate to both general times of worship and specific events and themes.
  • Develop a creative sense about contributions bells and chimes can make in a service
  • Develop a rationale for various roles bells and chimes might assume
  • Have some experience in creating musical settings of their own for particular purposes
  • Be able to encourage open thinking and a helping attitude about how bells and chimes might have a leadership/supportive role in worship beyond performance
  • Look toward such activities additionally as a way of building wider support and attracting new ringers



There is so much music available in print from so many publishers, finding appropriate literature for a particular ensemble to use at a particular point in a particular service or other event can be overwhelming.  This Unit will build knowledge and skills at finding one’s way through the flood of existing and new literature on the market, choosing from among it what is best for the style of congregational worship, a particular need in the service, the skill level of the ensemble, and the ongoing process of building the group’s skills.

  • The class will explore the breadth of handbell publishers in presentation, handouts, discussion of personal experience, and Internet searches.
  • Particular pieces will be given as examples of possible choices for specific uses, and the class will discuss how they might be them.
  • From a selection of published repertoire, participants will be coached in selecting repertoire for imaginary or known ensembles for particular functions.


Bells and chimes can certainly be utilized in many other ways than playing standard literature.  There are resources available, among them giving philosophy, how-to, and specific music to use.  The subject will be explored and experienced.

  • The Unit will survey several models of worship style, content, and liturgical order, utilizing research and discussion.
  • Examples will be provided of ways bells and chimes might be involved in various aspects of the service. Some of those covered will be hymn introductions and accompaniments, prayer and psalm refrains, fanfares, and processionals.
  • Using the provided examples as generic models, participants will compose their own music for utilizing the sounds of bells and chimes to enhance an element of the service.


In any institution, a musical organization does more than provide performances.  It is also a part of the whole community and a community unto itself.  It is important that it be known more widely as an intentional, human part of the corporate life, as well as giving leadership and participation in public events, such as worship, congregational meetings, parties, and outreach.

  • A presentation will be given on models of institution-wide influence, followed by discussion of the experience and hopes of the participants.
  • This will be followed by testimonials and discussion about impact on the ringers of long-term involvement in a bell or chime ensemble, including faith journey, musical growth, personal relationships, etc.
  • Opportunities will be presented and discussed for carrying the ensemble’s life to care facilities, schools, and other external institutions and events.  The subject includes appropriate repertoire, issues of traveling with the paraphernalia of the instrument, and follow-up PR within the congregation to make clear that this sort of thing is part of the mission of the bell/chime program.

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  • Class participation
  • Composition comprehension
  • Ability to verbalize a philosophy of handbell/handchime ministry

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  • Hopson, Hal H. The Creative Use of Handbells in Worship. Carol Stream IL: Hope Publishing Co., Catalogue number 1956, 1997
  • Junkert, Kermit. Handbells In the Liturgy. St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing House, CO991594, 1994
  • Behnke, John. Handbell Descants for the Divine Service. St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing House, CO976512, 1994
  • Mathis, William. After the Prelude: Handbell Resources to Enhance Worship. Dallas TX: Choristers Guild, 2008, 2009, 2010. Year A, Year B, Year C

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