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A clash of cymbals

Nims-Obunge1A leading church minister has weighed into the row after a local council imposed draconian sound restrictions on a black church after complaint about noise from just one neighbour

Pastor Nims Obunge, head of the Peace Alliance, has defended the right of churches to praise God in an expressive way after Waltham Forest Council, in north-east London, clamped down on the Immanuel International Christian Centre.

Last week a court rejected an appeal against restrictions that stipulate music can only be played for 20 minutes, ordering the church to pay over £2,000 legal costs.

Pastor Nims, who leads a church in Tottenham, north London, said that he had also experienced the heavy hand of town hall bureaucrats served a Noise Abatement Notice following complaints by a neighbour.

He said: ‘It is written “let everyone who has breath praise the Lord.” [King] David knew how to praise God. He was just having a wild time of praise and worship. There is nothing wrong with that.’

Pastor Nims said that his congregation had “lost a lot of members” after Haringey imposed strict noise limits on his church. He said people “really want a worship experience” in charismatic black-majority churches, and that the authorities should recognise this.

Immanuel International Christian Centre now fears for its survival after it’s congregation has fallen from 100 to just 30, following a time limit their worship from 11.30am and 11.50pm on Sundays only.

All Saints Centre in Kennington, south London, is also facing similar problems after Lambeth Council ordered it to keep the volume down. Both cases have led to allegations of state bias against vibrant Christian worship.

The row about noise levels follows hot on the heels of the latest set-back by Britain’s biggest black-majority church, Kingsway International Christian Centre, to find a home.

KICC, led by tele-evangelist Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, was forced out of its Hackney home to make way for the Olympic site – even though a bus garage next door is still operating – but since being evicted the mega-church has seen several planning applications turned down after objections by local residents.

KICC have submitted applications to build a new church in Rainham, in Essex, and in Havering, east London, but both times have been knocked back.

Immanuel International Christian Centre is the third controversy affecting Waltham Forest council in the past few months.

In April, the council used new powers aimed at targeting fast food takeaways near schools to close a Caribbean takeaway despite protests that it was not being used by children during lunchtime.

Two months later Labour were forced to suspend the process of selecting local councillors to fight next years local elections in Waltham Forest after a row about the deselection of a number of sitting councillors, including the sitting mayor Anna Mbachu.

By Lester Holloway

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