Church bells toll as nation mourns

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Churches are tolling their bells today in honour of the Queen after she died on Thursday at the age of 96.

Parish churches, chapels and cathedrals will toll their bells for an hour on Friday, starting at noon.

Bellringers will employ a special technique used only for the death of a sovereign which involves sounding fully muffled bells fitted with pads on either side of the bell clapper to create a unique echo effect.

Churches and cathedrals across the country have opened their doors to welcome in mourners for a moment of prayer and quiet reflection, or to light a candle.

Special services are also being planned and churches with flag poles are being advised to fly them at half until the day after the Queen's funeral and for a period following the proclamation of the new King.

The Bishop of Lichfield, Michael Ipgrave, said: "The Queen's strong personal faith in Jesus Christ informed her sense of duty and her role as Defender of the Faith.

"We pray now that she finds rest and peace, assured by her faith, and for our cathedral and other churches across the diocese in the coming days and weeks as they offer a place of consolation for all those who mourn."

The Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, said: "At a time like this, of course, people will want to think and reflect, to give thanks and to pray and our churches throughout Cumbria will be open for that purpose."

Chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, Jo Kelly-Moore, said the Queen had been "a great support" to cathedrals, and that they stood ready to welcome people in.

"The Queen has been a beacon of hope, faith and unity in our country and throughout the world; a constant in the midst of so much change," she said.

"Our Queen has also been a great support to the cathedrals of this land and the Commonwealth. Here in the United Kingdom every cathedral is part of her rich story as she has travelled the length and breadth of this nation during her long and happy reign. So too, we have been strengthened and supported by her prayers.

"Now the cathedrals will join our prayers as, together, we give thanks to God for Her Majesty the Queen's extraordinary life, founded on her faith and seen in her gracious leadership and selfless service to us all.

"As in the cathedrals of this land we have prayed God's blessing upon the Queen every day of her reign, we do so again now and we pray for her family at this sad time.

"And we invite you, her people, to join us. All our cathedrals are open so please come and add your voices, and prayers, in remembrance and thanks."

The Church of England has produced general guidance for parish churches on marking the passing of a sovereign which covers opening books of condolence, flying flags at half mast and bellringing. 

Liturgies for official Commemorative Services and special prayers will also be made available.