Last Saturday, the New York Times had a story about the bells of the (Catholic) Church of Our Savior. The church is situated on a relatively quiet block of midtown Manhattan. Its neighbors had begun referring to the electronic, amplified bell sounds as “Chinese water torture.” It wasn’t so much the volume as the number of chimes that frayed their nerves.
For years, the bells tolled twice a day, at noon and again at 6 p.m., but in September, when a new pastor arrived at the church, on Park Avenue and 38th Street in Murray Hill, he stepped up the chime schedule to 13 times a day, with additional tolls on the weekends. … The new pastor, the Rev. Robert J. Robbins, began a daily regimen of hourly chimes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., consisting of the tones of a hymn followed by a chiming of the hour.
When a group of Murray Hill residents, Christians included, repeatedly asked the church if the bell-ringing could please revert to the old schedule, they got bupkis.
Their messages and emails to Father Robbins went unanswered, they said, but he did address the issue in church newsletters. In one, he called the bell situation a controversy created by “anti-Christian” neighbors.
And that’s where things stood until just past midnight on Monday, when the digital church bells began ringing, intermittently, all night, in addition to all the daytime peals.
The bells … left some neighbors bleary-eyed and prompted them to accuse the church of retaliating against them after an article in The New York Times about the dispute over the bells was published on Saturday.
“It woke us up from a dead sleep,” said Lorraine Hack, who lives across the street from the church. …
[T]he assumption among some neighbors, after being awaked early Monday just after midnight by a round of bell-ringing, was that the new regimen of all-night bells was retaliation for their complaints to the pastor and to The Times.
Father Robbins said that was untrue and that the repeated nighttime ringing had been “a mechanical error.” A spokesman for the archdiocese said the bells would be “repaired,” but could not offer any insights into whether the busy schedule of daytime chimes would be curtailed.
“These quote-unquote mechanical issues are an unbelievable coincidence,” remarked one skeptical neighbor.