Staff Photo: Tyler Estep Neighbors living near the property of the International House of Prayer, located on Collins Hill Road in Lawrenceville, say the non-denominational church plays loud music late at night, sometimes with bass so strong it shakes their houses. The church is open 24 hours a day.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Ask a few folks living near Lawrenceville's International House of Prayer, and that whole "love thy neighbor" thing ain't exactly being lived by.
Rachael LaLiberty and Patty Bakmac's homes back up to the non-denominational church's tin-roofed building on Collins Hill Road. When they moved into the Wellington Estates subdivision they expected a good neighbor, a positive influence in the community.
What they got, they say, is the church's 24-hour worship services, complete with loud music and an ungodly amount of bass.
"The bass shakes our house inside," LaLiberty said. "Things fall over."
Said Bakmac: "It literally gives me headaches."
The International House of Prayer opened its doors in Lawrenceville in 2004. Since February 2006, the church has had its "prayer room" open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "The prayer meeting that started on Feb. 12, 2006, continues to this day, without ceasing," the church's website says.
The website contains a schedule for the prayer room: With events titled devotional worship, intercession, end times service and healing service, it runs unabated in hour-long blocks from midnight to 11 p.m.
Worship, Bakmac said, is not a problem. It's the loud music that comes with, often in the wee hours of the morning.
"We're happy that they worship, we worship too," the 58-year-old said. "They certainly have the right to worship. But they don't have the right to impose their worship on other people."
LaLiberty said she, Bakmac and another neighbor in the cul-de-sac that backs up to the church grounds -- often times with a buffer of less than 50 feet -- began by complaining directly to church personnel. Church leaders originally said they were working on better "sound proofing" the building, but those assurances proved fruitless, LaLiberty said.
"I went as far as going in there and inviting two of the church leaders into our house to listen one night," LaLiberty said. "They came over and they both agreed that the music was crazy loud ... But one said, 'But if we turn the music down it doesn't sound good inside (the church).'"
Multiple attempts to reach church officials were unsuccessful. Voicemail messages left at the church and with specific leaders were not returned.
LaLiberty and Bakmac said they now routinely call the police to report the loud music. Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said only one formal noise violation has been filed against the church in the last two years. That came last December, he said.
Officers come to the area when they're called, Bakmac said, but often can't do anything because the deep bass of the music has stopped for the time being. LaLiberty has taken to sleeping with ear plugs in.
Both women agreed that church leaders are "perfectly nice" when spoken to about the issue. But that hasn't delivered results, they said.
"They just really have no regard for their neighbors," Bakmac said. "It's a shame."
Gwinnett County ordinances make it unlawful to make "any loud ... noise which unreasonably annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others in the county, and which is audible to a person of normal hearing ability more than 50 feet from the point of origin."
The backyards of LaLiberty and Bakmac likely begin closer than 50 feet to the church, but their actual homes are outside of those parameters.
Both women expressed some degree of reluctance to complain because, after all, the church is a place of worship. That said, they want it to be held to the same standard as anyone else.
"If we did that, if we had a loud party, we would get fined," Bakmac said.
"They don't care," LaLiberty added. "That's the end of it I think."