Discord Rings Through Arlington Community
"I would argue it pulls the community together in some way, " he said. "It's a unifying experience to have bells ringing through the neighborhood."
Bauman said the sound of the bells makes him nostalgic for his college days when he lived next to a church in a town in central Germany.
Tingle said Mount Olivet -- which was founded in 1854 and has 1,200 members -- previously played recorded chimes, but the tapes wore out about a decade ago. An anonymous parishioner donated $12,000 for a new computerized chime machine last year.
When the system debuted in November, the bells rang the Westminster chime every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and Saturday and from noon to 6 on Sunday. Every day, the chimes played five minutes of hymns at noon and 6 p.m.
Brookover said neighbors felt their initial complaints to church fathers were ignored. In December, officers of the Waverly Hills Civic Association, which includes some homes nearby, stepped in to mediate.
"It was getting kind of ugly," said Paul Manning, the association's treasurer.
"There were accusations of people alleging they were going to turn up at the church in their underwear and protest. Veiled threats of forcing the county to do something, filing civil lawsuits, filing criminal charges, having Larry Tingle arrested."
The church eventually agreed to limit the hymn-playing to two-minute segments and to sound the chimes only on the hour from noon until 6 p.m. daily. And they turned down the volume for the third time on Monday.
Janette Purnell DeJesus, who supervises Arlington's code enforcement program, said the church has always been in compliance with the noise ordinance, with decibel levels ranging from 56 to 59.6, under the daytime limit of 60 decibels.
In contrast, when the Washington National Cathedral bells ring -- to mark religious services or special events rather than the time -- they sometimes reach 81 decibels on cathedral grounds and range from 50 to 60 decibels in the surrounding neighborhoods, according to Elizabeth Hargrove, the cathedral's media specialist, who said Mount Olivet's current setting of 58 decibels "would be considered low."
Tingle said he hopes that Monday's volume adjustment will quiet the controversy for good.
"To me, it's just a big distraction," Tingle said. "I have to see people dying of cancer. I've got Holy Week coming up."
But opponents said they were still considering legal action to stop the bells altogether.
"We've not formulated our next step," Brookover said. "I am still not happy. I think it's wrong to do."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company