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Ringtones to Peal From Pinehurst Steeple

Church bells soon won't be the only ones ringing from the steeple of The Village Chapel.

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PINEHURST, N.C. — Church bells soon won't be the only ones ringing from the steeple of The Village Chapel.

The 83-year-old church has agreed to allow Verizon to install a cellular phone antenna inside its steeple once village officials craft an ordinance regulating concealed cell towers. Verizon is helping develop the ordinance, Village Planner Bruce Gould said.

Pinehurst has cell antennas on aging water towers. But they are set to be torn down in the next couple of years, which would leave Pinehurst without cell service.

So, Verizon approached The Village Chapel about using its 77-foot steeple for an antenna. The only taller structure in Pinehurst is the Carolina Hotel.

"That's a wonderful blessing," said the Rev. Glenn Miller, pastor of The Village Chapel. "People are concerned about cell phones and antennas. They are all around us."

Cell phone industry officials estimate antennas are in about 500 church steeples nationwide. A Verizon spokeswoman said the company has 10 "stealth towers" in North Carolina, including some in steeples.

"Stealth towers" can cost up to four times as much as regular towers, the Verizon spokeswoman said, and  nearby residents often consider them unsightly. Other companies have camouflaged antennas as fake trees and clock towers.

The Verizon spokeswoman said the antenna won't pose any danger to The Village Chapel congregation, and there will be no signs of it from outside.

Still, some congregation members opposed the move.

"Something like a transmission tower in God's house just rang wrong with them," church trustee Thomas Melhorn said.

“Are we selling ourselves out commercially? Once they realize that Verizon has nothing to do with the ministry or the independence of the church, that was a non-issue,” Miller said.

The Village Chapel will get monthly payments from Verizon, Melhorn said, but the company asked him not to disclose how much. He said that money would support the church's ministry.

"God wants us to be part of this world. The more we are part of this world, the better able we are to bring His message to the world," he said.


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