The Church as Citizen/Neighbor

I had a meeting a few minutes ago with a woman who lives a mile or so away from our church.  The meeting was cordial and she was very kind, even bringing a gift of honey from her bee hive at home.  It was clear that she had concerns, but she expressed them with consideration and straightforwardness, which I appreciated greatly.

She had some specific concerns about how our church uses our bell carillon.  Some of her concerns were warranted and we’ve already been working on solutions prior to our meeting.  Some of her concerns are new on my radar, but certainly warrant further investigation on my part.  Some of her concerns I have less sympathy for, but am still called to consider because our church is a neighbor, part of the community.
It’s a question I presume churches really haven’t had to think about all that much.  Churches were once anchors of a community, now they have become more often than not accessories, strange baubles perhaps.  The privileges bestowed to churches by dint of their representation of the shared values and beliefs of the community as a whole now are seen as somewhat odd and out of step with our popular cultural notions.  Why is it that churches should be allowed to ring their bells when other institutions in the community – such as a car dealership or a restaurant – aren’t allowed to announce their presence to an entire area through some sort of amplified advertising?  
She wasn’t pushing for the abolition of our bells, but her comments made clear that this was more a concession on her part because she personally enjoyed them to a degree, and hardly an acknowledgement of some sort of privilege we have which is either illegitimate or can/should be taken away.  
I can point to history to make a case for the use of bells.  But I also have to acknowledge that few people care about history these days.  The culture of the past holds little appeal or sway for people of a different culture, and today’s culture is very different than the culture when our most recent location was built 45 years ago.  
If someone were to propose that a mosque could offer the call to prayer each day through an amplified system, I would resist this.  I would resist this on cultural lines.  Islam is an extremely minor part of American culture compared to Christianity.  Even today when more and more people are not identifying with any particular brand of Christianity, they still consider themselves to be basically Christian.  
But beyond that historical argument, it’s difficult to determine why a church should have that privilege and not a mosque.  Or a temple.   Why a church and not a car dealership?  Again, historically and culturally speaking I can make an argument.  Aside from this, I’m harder pressed.  I look forward to some interesting discussions with my church leadership in the coming days on the topic.  I’ll keep you posted.  And I’m certainly open to any insight any of you might want to throw my way!

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