It was a long day. Running errands around Monrovia including stints on crowded Bushrod Island was exhausting. Driving in a black sport utility vehicle, with black leather seats, and black tinted windows without air conditioner in a blazing 93 degree temperature took its toll.
I retired sooner than usual, crashing on the bed just as soon as I walked in the room.
But, I awoke even earlier to spiritual shouts, trumpeting from loud speakers. Not sure what time it was, so I rolled over and checked the timepiece on my mobile phone. It was three o’clock in the early morning. The loud noise had clearly hampered my sleeping pattern.
I stepped outside to identify the direction of the pulsating chants. I walked around the neighborhood, still pitched dark under a light rain drizzle, trying to visit the church to ask the pastor to stop, or at least, significantly lower the volume. After a few blocks, I was halted by a large mangrove swamp separating my apartment and the church, but the thumbing noise of singing and drumming pierce through the damped morning air unabated.
Not knowing where to go in the dark, I retreated to my residence and decided to take up the issue with the authorities instead of confronting a church packed with overzealous prayer warriors.
Two weeks earlier, a similar incident occurred when a self-declared “evangelist” and “man-of-God” named, Will Smith, berated a young woman who had asked him to turn down the volume emanating from his ‘apartment-chapel’ next door. He responded by throwing the “F” bomb and hurling other offensive words at her.
The woman was chosen by a small band of men as an emissary to this one-man prayer band operator who disturbs the Airfield – Lakpazee neighborhood most mornings with his cult-like rants. The entire sub-division is at the mercy of this foul-mouth wannabe cleric. Most people I talked to said they were uncomfortable challenging him because “in Liberia, no one confronts a pastor,” even if he is a phony who disturbs the public peace.
I searched around and found no one who could tell me where to go for redress. It is time that Monrovia city officials, law enforcement authorities, and community leaders stop looking the other way why tolerating the impunity of those who claim to be born-again pastors. Yet, in reality, many of these preachers are indulging in ungodly behaviors – their utter disregard for the rights of their neighbors to sleep at night.
Clearly, these all-night church services and tarries are causing sleepless nights to many Liberians but most people are helpless to go up against these Christian leaders because it would seem sacrilegious. Another problem is no one knows who to contact or which government agency has jurisdiction over enforcing noise ordinance or eliminating loud church revivals that sometime goes well beyond 50 decibels at night.
Noise pollution has an adverse effect on our hearing; exposure to loud levels of noise can easily result in the damage of our ear drums and loss of hearing, according to medical practitioners. Other health issues resulting from noise pollution, say doctors, include sleeping disorders and cardiovascular conditions.
I have spoken to Liberians from across the city and all of them have increasingly indicated that the problem of all night church service is a menace throughout the country. It seems more prevalent in densely populated Monrovia, but no one apparently has an answer on how to close down churches guilty of noise pollution. These noisy overnight services can seriously undermine people's peaceful enjoyment of their own homes and they need to be stopped!
Religious institutions have just as much rights as the average citizen and should be regulated. These overnight church revivals pose a risk to their attendants’ health. Many people think that by attending church overnight can offer solutions to unemployment, poverty and sickness. But many of these church goers are not getting enough sleep and may not adequately perform on a job, even if they were to find work.
These church services over the years have proliferated, especially during Christmas and New Year’s holiday, even in countries like the United States (though, churches operate on set sound level and will be heavily fined, if they violated noise ordinances).
You can have your all night tarries but control the sound to the confines of the building. Blaring loud speakers in the middle of the night why people are generally asleep is unacceptable and unhealthy.
But, why are these marathon church services on the rise? Is it because many people believe in superstition and think that God would provide them whatever they ask for during these revivals?
Whatever the motivation, the same God that is worshipped sets time for everything in the Bible: A time to work and a time to play, a time to eat, and a time to sleep, which requires eight hours.
Noise nuisance is a major problem in Monrovia and it is not restricted to churches or spaces of worship – from the constant honking of horns, to amplified music from the city’s omnipresent entertainment centers, bars, video clubs, and cars with loud speakers in the trunk trumpeting all sorts of commercial promotions – are ubiquitous throughout the city. What is the decibel level allowed under the city’s noise ordinance, or is there such a thing in Monrovia? Loud noise has public health implications and is a menace that needs to be controlled. The problem is now at a crisis level.
The solution to this problem is rather simple. Controlling the noise pollution in the country will only be successful if it doesn’t come across like the authorities are picking on some religious institutions. All those entities mentioned above need to be regulated and given defined decibel level for operating in the city. Worship centers could utilize sound proof equipment to reduce noise during their religious services.
I finally dozed off at about 6:30 a.m., only to be awaken again after 30 minutes by the chant of a petty seller:
“Buy your sweet doughnut here!”
Wynfred Russell can be contacted at [email protected]