Complaint about church bells in Arcadia raises commotion

Oct 14, 2019

Credit Stewart McFerran

Yard signs are popping up throughout the village of Arcadia that say: “Save the Arcadia Bells.” The bells of Trinity Lutheran Church ring every hour from 7 in the morning until 10 at night. A request to reduce the noise raised an outcry in the Manistee County community.  


Trinity Lutheran Church was built in Arcadia 1888 and the sound of bells has been heard in the Pleasant Valley ever since. They can even be heard by boaters on Lake Michigan too. Locals like Nancy Masterson say the bells help people keep track of time in the village.

“Probably one of my fondest memories was I had to be home by a certain number of bells,” she remembers. “So I would be out having fun on the beach and I would listen and I would count and if it got up to 10 that means I was way late.”

The church was built by a German businessman named Henry Starke who came to Michigan from Milwaukee. Starke also built the harbor and the railway that connected to Copemish. Today Arcadia still has a strong Lutheran identity. Ryan Tinetti is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church. 

“At the high point in the summer in July and August we might have 400 worshipers across three services,” he says. “We have Camp Arcadia close by which is a Lutheran family camp and a number of people who are up at the camp for the week will come and join us for worship on Sunday or Saturday night.”

Tad Peacock and his wife bought a second home in the village of Arcadia last year. The steeple of Trinity Lutheran Church towers over their backyard. Peacock says the people in Arcadia are “neighborly and gracious,” but he's not excited about the four speakers that project the sound of bells and hymns from the Trinity steeple. Peacock and his wife met with the church council about their concerns.

“We just basically asked them if they would consider turning it down, consider turning down the volume for the chimes and the songs,” he says.

The reaction of Arcadia residents in favor of the bells has been strong. Some people have even suggested that there is an effort to silence the church entirely. 

Lawn signs can be seen throughout the village that read “Save the Arcadia Bells.” The signs have a bell with a heart on it. There was even talk of a petition drive.  

Still, Tinetti says the church might reduce the hours the bells are heard.

“I think that a lot of members of the Arcadia community more generally really value and love the bells and what they signify," he says. “And yet not everyone is going to like it.”

Trinity Lutheran is hosting a community forum Tuesday night at 7.