Of Holy Noise And Kenyan Churches

Picture this. You’ve had a long week and by Saturday you’re looking forward to a quiet time at home for the entire weekend either alone, or with your family or friends. You buy everything you’ll need for those two days as you get ready to wallow in blissful peace and quiet until Monday morning when you get up to go back to work thoroughly relaxed.

But someone else has other plans for your weekend.

A church that recently sprouted less than 100 meters away from your estate has been assembling a huge public address system in preparation for an afternoon crusade that will run into an overnight prayer vigil. You’ve had a lovely late lunch and just when you’re settling in for that movie you borrowed, the serene silence of the neighborhood is shattered by the now familiar ‘Testing Testing One Two Three Hallelujah’.

The word Hallelujah is supposed to invoke positive feelings for the good Lord but in this case a curse escapes your lips. Your problem is not the content of their message though. You also acknowledge the power of God in your life and appreciate that after all there is such a thing as freedom of worship and speech. The problem is the volume of the amplified speakers. The problem is that they’re forcing you and the whole neighborhood to listen to them – what they want, when they want and at the volume they want.

And so there ends your dreams for a peaceful weekend.

They must be worshiping in shifts because they are at it all afternoon, all night and after a brief lull, they’re back Sunday morning around 10.00 am. On Wednesday there is the weekly prayer meeting, Tuesday there is choir practice and some other day in the week there is Piano and other instruments practice – all accompanied by amplified singing and praying.

This is a scenario that is becoming all too common in Kenya with churches sprouting all over and inching increasingly closer to residential areas.

Pubs, company promotions and other non Christian street noisemakers are material for a whole other post.

As much as there are laws to guard the freedom of speech in Kenya, there seems to be none to guard residents against amplified noise or music that is unreasonably loud, raucous, jarring or disturbing to persons other than those for whom it is intended.

Take for example a small tin-walled church of 30X40 feet. A single loud speaker or indeed none at all, is enough to address the maximum number of congregants that can be accommodated in there. So if the same church mounts loud speakers on the roof, it is no longer for the intended audience but for the neighbors.

But is the church sure the neighbors want to listen in the first place?

The unfortunate bit is that a church more than any other noisemaker can always play the holy card. How can you complain while the Lord said to spread his holy word? You must be so unholy bla bla bla.

I feel we need a law on this or if we have one it needs to be enforced.

Amplified sound of any kind should only be allowed at certain times and should only be audible upto a certain distance – say 250 feet. Some countries have done their bit to protect their citizens against amplified noise. This has seen preachers arrested under these laws, thrown into jail and their equipment confiscated.

In 1996 for example, American Christian Enterprises and SOS Ministries sued the city of San Fransisco for discrimination citing that the police and some listeners disliked what they said. But the US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their claims with Judge Ronald Gould saying in his ruling that from the evidence provided, the people were concerned about unacceptable noise levels and not with the content of the message.

Have a quiet day.

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