Sunday, September 12, 2010

For Whom the Bell Tolls...

Having grown up a stones' throw from a Catholic Church -- I miss hearing the bells.


"We really think that this is much ado about nothing," Shivey said. "Whoever moves to this area knows there's a church and a church bell. If you don't like the sound of a church bell, you don't move into the area."

"No one's ever complained before," said Speedy Morris, head basketball coach at St. Joseph's Preparatory School and a lifelong parishioner at St. John's. "With people leaving the bars and urinating on the streets, anyone complaining about church bells is ludicrous."

And Father Lyons?

"Unless the city or the archdiocese tells us we can't, they are going to keep ringing."

Too loud too early for Manayunk church bell, neighbor complains - Philadelphia Inquirer

By Sam Wood

Inquirer Staff Writer

For 104 years, the bell at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in hilly, blue-collar Manayunk has joyfully summoned the faithful to prayer, celebrated marriages, and marked the ends of wars.

Now, in a city whose many sacred symbols include a cracked bell, someone has filed a complaint to silence St. John's 5,000-pound bronze casting.

Not completely. Just in the morning. At 7. That's when it rings 18 times for the Angelus.

The official reason: It's too loud.

The Rev. James A. Lyons, pastor of St. John's, received a warning letter last week from the city Health Department.

The missive threatened the 179-year-old church with fines of up to $700 per day if the pealing bell is found to violate the city's 2006 noise law.

"Air Management Services (AMS) has received citizen's complaints of loud amplified sounds from the above premises every day at 7 a.m. AMS would like to advise you that amplified sound and all other noise . . . shall not exceed five decibels above background level measured at the property boundary of the nearest occupied residential property," states the letter, signed by Roger M. Fey, the city's enforcement officer for air and noise pollution.

Earlier this year, the church's business manager received an anonymous phone call from a woman who said she lived a block from St. John's.

"I will never forget this," said Rosemary Swider, who has worked at the church for 16 years and took the call. "She said the bell was disrupting her quality of life."

The church has stood in Gothic splendor on Rector Street since 1856. The parish originally ministered to the neighborhood's Irish Catholics. It now serves 1,900 families. About a block away, restaurants, bars, and boutiques have sprouted along Main Street, transforming the working-class community into a destination for college students and young professionals.

A clock tower - with the bell - was erected at the church in 1906, long before the city passed a noise ordinance. The church, mindful of neighborhood needs, has, over the last half-century, cut back the number of times the bell tolls.

Until the 1960s, the bell struck every half-hour and all through the night. When Lyons arrived in 1994, he restricted the bell's operating hours, shutting it off at 9 p.m.

The bell has always sounded the Catholic call to prayer known as the Angelus. Traditionally, the Angelus bells sound 18 times at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m.

Several years ago, Lyons delayed the first Angelus to 7. "We wanted to do the neighborly thing," he said, "and give everybody a rest."...

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