Midtown Raleigh News

Church, neighbors meet to seek fixes on noise

Neither side is ready to shout “Hallelujah!” just yet, but a Pentecostal church and neighbors bothered by loud music from its worship services have pledged to keep working – amicably, this time – to resolve their long-running feud.

The neighborhood even offered to organize a yard sale or fish fry to raise money for soundproofing upgrades at The Glorious Church, housed in a 50-year-old building on Glascock Street just east of downtown.

After the two parties talked through their problems last week at a City Council committee hearing, chairwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin asked participants to shake hands and continue a dialogue through the local CAC.

“There’s been regrettable behavior on both sides,” Baldwin said. “I think we can do better going forward.”

Police have been called more than 130 times since 2005 for noise complaints involving the church’s celebratory praise music.

According to police, the “vast majority” of calls come from John Seitz, who lives next to the church and asked the city to intervene.

“It’s not the bass drum,” Seitz said. “It’s not the cymbals. The snare drum is just really penetrating. The repetitious nature is what wakes me up.”

A tradition of worship

The church has canceled weekday and night services and moved its musical instruments to a different spot in attempts to placate Seitz and neighbors, said Bishop William Spain.

In total, 175 to 200 people attend two Sunday morning services.

“Mainline denominations worship the same way we do,” Spain said. “We’ve tried to do everything we can other than close the church down.”

Highlighted by singing and preaching “at the upper ranges of the voice,” ecstatic worship is part of the Pentecostal tradition, said Brendan Thornton, a religious studies professor at UNC Chapel Hill.

“Many believe that it is music and song that prepare the church for the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and many believe that it aids in scaring the Devil and his minions away,” Thornton wrote in an email.

Complaints over noise are nothing new for Pentecostals, said Dr. Grant Wacker, a professor of Christian history at Duke Divinity School.

“In the early years of the 20th century, when the Pentecostal movement was born, believers often found themselves targeted by the police for disturbing the peace because of their loud late-night prayer meetings,” Wacker wrote in an email.

“Today it is rare for them to be the subject of disturbing the peace investigations. So this is unusual in the context of 2012, but certainly not 1912.”

Baldwin asked Seitz to stop his calls to the police while neighbors and church leaders hold discussions. The city will not issue citations to the church as long as the issue remains under review by the law and public safety committee, Baldwin said.

Another neighbor of the church, Mark Turner, said he also has heard noise – while in his house with the windows closed.

Turner, chair of the Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council, offered to act as a mediator to help the two parties find common ground.

Finding the right soundproofing

An effective soundproofing system could prove costly, a local acoustical consultant says.

To find the right treatment, an expert would first need to figure out the weaknesses of the building to pinpoint where sound is escaping, said Jeff Schafer, founder of F. C. Schafer Consulting in Concord. A consultation can range from $5,000 to $10,000.

If sound is leaking from the windows or doors, the solution could be to seal them, which can cost at least $200, Schafer said. Another option would be to simply replace the windows and doors.

If there’s a leak, sound panels won’t make much of a difference, Schafer said. Soundproofing projects can cost anywhere from a few thousand to several thousand dollars.

Seitz said he wouldn’t mind if the church resumes weekday services, as long the volume stays at a reasonable level.

“Believe me, I would like to refrain from a Sunday morning of calling in noise complaints,” he said. “That’s not how I like to spend my time, either.”