New Venture Christian Fellowship creates an atmosphere for worship.
By Dawn Allcot
Imagine entering your local church on a Sunday morning expecting to see the usual chairs, gray carpet beneath your feet, white lights overhead and maybe some church announcements on the big screens behind the stage. You believe your senses must be deceiving you, as, instead, the carpet appears to be the off-white sands of a California beach, and the Pacific Ocean roars in front of you. You swear you can feel the sun beating down on your head as you take your seat. You're surprised to find the chair solid beneath you; it doesn't shift in the sand like you expected. Everything around you says "beach" but the lack of a salt water scent. And if you close your eyes, listen to the sound of the surf and concentrate, you can almost smell the ocean air, too.
If you're a regular or visitor to New Venture Christian Fellowship, this could have been your experience on a recent Sunday morning. It took three projection screens and five edge-blended 15,000-lumen, Christie HD projectors, an extensive collection of LED lighting, four universes of DMX lighting control, and a state-of-the-art sound system to create the effect... and it's all in a Sunday morning's work for Josh Wilson, pastor of ministry productions, and his team at New Venture Christian Fellowship in Oceanside, Ca.
Rick Boring, senior systems consultant for CCI Solutions, the Olympia-based integrator who designed and installed the systems, said re-creating the beach in the 1,800-seat sanctuary is just one example of how the lighting and video systems are used to change the environment and enhance the worship experience at NVCF.
Explaining that the beach culture is part of life in Oceanside, Boring said Senior Pastor Shawn Mitchell sometimes holds services on the beach. Now, technology can bring the beach, or, at least a reasonable facsimile of it, right inside the church. "It's very subtle," he said, noting that using just the right touches of orange and amber in the LED house lighting turned the gray carpet tan while giving the impression that the house lights were still pure white and nothing was unusual. "It was amazing what we could do with subtleties, just splashes of light," he said.
This is how technology in a house of worship should be — largely transparent. People will notice the end result of the technology, but not how the effects were achieved. And as much as the environment may cause people to say "Wow," when the message begins, the special effects should fade in to the background as part of the experience, not steal the show.
On the other hand, when technology fails, it's sure to be noticed. Prior to the recent audiovisual and lighting systems upgrades at NVCF, congregation members were noticing the technology for all the wrong reasons. "Projectors were dying right in front of the congregation," Boring said. "Lights were going out. Their equipment was clearly beyond its life expectancy."
New Venture Christian Fellowship was planted in July 1989 as a bible study group of five people and Senior Pastor Shawn Mitchell and his wife Laurie, in the couple's northern California living room. In October 1989, the group held its first service in a public gathering place, with 52 congregation members in attendance. Following a five-year period of rapid growth, the church settled in to its permanent home on a 19-acre campus in Oceanside in July 1994.
The AV and lighting systems in the 1,800-seat sanctuary had hardly been upgraded since that time. Boring had worked with New Venture Pastor of Ministry Productions Josh Wilson at a previous church, so Wilson called him to discuss the issues and plan a renovation of the sanctuary, with an emphasis on the audio, video and lighting systems. A general contractor and electrical contractor were also brought in and architectural changes were made to the stage but, ultimately, the project was driven by the need for new technical systems.
After speaking with Senior Pastor Shawn Mitchell, Boring realized that visualization is a highly important part of how he communicates so effectively. "He uses a lot of sermon illustrations," Boring said, "and he goes beyond video. If he's talking about a shepherd, he may bring a live sheep onto the stage."
Boring knew the technology systems in the space needed to reflect that unique approach to worship, to bring the message home each week in a way that is larger than life. Three screens totaling close to 100 feet and spanning the entire length of the stage provide the visual "wow" factor, while rock-solid audio systems offered a superior sound experience. A full command center with recording space was constructed adjacent to the sanctuary, allowing the newly-expanded technical staff to work together in a professional environment.
The associate pastor in charge of the streaming service sends messages live online with worshipers watching the services from more than 50 countries. Boring explained, "As Pastor Shawn is preaching, he may be reaching a lot of un-churched individuals. People can watch the live streaming video, anywhere in the world, and send a question, in real time, to the associate pastor, who can then answer online via instant messenger. It can be everything from defining certain words the pastor uses to explaining more background, culture or history of the sermon topic."
The online audience members aren't the only ones who enjoy the benefits of cutting-edge technology used in imaginative ways. Within the sanctuary, three screens totaling close to 100 feet wide and standing 11-feet tall offer a field-of-view of 160 degrees for image magnification, atmospheric projection, and anything else the church video team can dream up. The center screen measures 23-feet-wide, and is flanked by two 38-foot screens to cover the entire width of the stage.
Five Christie CHR-L2K1500 2048 X 1080 15,000-lumen HD projectors with 4 LCD bulbs each that are edge blended fill the screens. The screens hang low to the stage so, Boring explained, "You barely shift your focus, and there's the pastor, and there's the projection screens."
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the project is that CCI Solutions, NVCF staff, and the remodeling contractor managed to keep the installation a secret from the congregation members while it was being put in. Services were held every Sunday within the sanctuary, as the church didn't have another space large enough to meet.
On Saturday night, the integrator would cover the new screens on the up-stage walls with black plastic. A portable sound system was brought in. The new LED house lights were programmed for white light only. Even when the new audio system went online, the old portable speaker stacks remained in place on stage until the First Sunday unveiling to make a big impression.
Boring said many congregation members noticed and said that "worship was exceptionally good," "When we do installations, I want the improved sound, video and lighting to help people enter into great worship, but don't want them to necessarily concisely attribute the difference to an improved sound and video system. I want it to be transparent!". Boring also said that "I am greatly pleased with the installation of an incredible AVL system, and it performed magnificently! We helped the church congregation to experience wonderful worship and to allow the pastor to communicate effectively with his visually oriented style. This is the CCI way. To be seen and to be heard with excellence is what we strive for."
When the 100-foot projection system and theatrical lighting systems were unveiled, it surprised people that the technology had been hiding in plain sight for weeks... Now that's truly transparent technology in a worship experience!
| The guys from CCI Solutions are top drawer! They were a delight to work with. They made it all work. CCI Solutions is awesome! |
| Zane Anderson |
Senior Pastor Victory Worship Center