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Making Your Church Multi-Purposed

In a world where multi-tasking has become the norm, houses of worship such as Mile Hi Church of Religious Science in Lakewood, Colorado, are becoming spaces that are not only for worship but are true community centers as well. When Mile Hi set out to construct its new 1,500-seat sanctuary, the space’s multiple uses played a big role in the design of acoustics as well as the selection of AV technologies to be installed.

The congregation had outgrown its original sanctuary and was looking to not only expand its seating size but the actual offerings of its worship services. “We wanted a larger stage for our music department,” says Nathan Marschall, Mile Hi Church’s audio director. “Our old sanctuary had a considerably smaller stage. We also wanted to provide more space for our music department with an expanding choir as well as integrate other forms of art, such as dance, into our services.” This is the fourth structure to be built on the church’s campus. Additional classroom space for the congregation’s children, meeting spaces for support and ministry groups, and additional rooms for its Prayer & Guidance Center were also included in the plans.

Mile Hi is an interdenominational church which places a large emphasis on self-help and personal development. To supplement its Wednesday and Sunday services, the church hosts many well-known speakers through its Renowned Speaker Program and offers a variety of worship-based programs and services. The Renowned Speaker Program brings in authors in the self-help genre such as Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Dr. Deepak Chopra and Neale Donald Walsh. On occasion, the church will also host member-only concerts with well-known artists such as Kenny Loggins (Loggins had performed at the old sanctuary and recently performed at the new one). The church is also planning to rent out its new sanctuary to outside organizations. Groups who have rented the old sanctuary in the past include the Lakewood Police Department as well as local children’s organizations. With the new sanctuary needing to be used for everything from large-scale concerts and productions to more intimate events, the technology and acoustics needed to be adaptable and scalable to all.

A major challenge in the design of the new space came up during the planning process when the entire facility went from having a conventional exterior skin/metal steel structure to a concrete dome. In order to save money and to fit the style of the other buildings on campus, Mile Hi decided the new space would have a concrete dome. Though the dome puts Mile Hi on the map as having the largest dome in the Denver Metro area, acoustically it posed several challenges for D.L. Adams Associates, Inc., Consultants in Acoustics and Performing Arts Technologies, who designed the acoustics and the technology setup for Mile Hi. “I had a concrete floor and a concrete dome with a 110-foot diameter and had to get the space to work for presentations as well as rock concerts,” says Ed Logsdon vice president of D.L. Adams Associates, Inc. “We had to do a lot of room shaping, to redirect reflection and try to break up the shape as much as possible, even though there is an inherent circular shape to the room.”

To achieve this result, the back half of the room was covered with wall panels up to just below the windows of the new AV and lighting booth. Clouds were installed below the curve of the dome to break up the reflection that comes off the upper concrete surface. These clouds have various folded shapes, an absorptive surface, a hard ply-wood center, and six inches of fiberglass lying on top of them. Between the clouds and the top of the dome there is 15 to 20 feet of air space. To help tame reflections from the dome, the entire upper part of the dome was completely covered with International Cellulose Corporate, K-13, a spray-on cellulose treatment.

From the onset of this project, much of the equipment from the original sanctuary would be reused elsewhere and not be available for the new sanctuary. “We definitely wanted to upgrade the sound system,” Marschall continues. “The old one was barely getting us through. It was okay for the original space, but we really wanted to upgrade the quality of the sound in the new space. We also wanted to make all the technologies incorporated a little more user-friendly.”

A typical worship band for Mile Hi includes piano, keyboards, bass, and drums with the keyboard player doubling as soprano saxophone and singer. About once a month, a lead guitar is added to the mix. Mile Hi also has nine rotating staff soloists handling Sunday and Wednesday services, and every third Sunday of the month from October through Easter, the choir performs with the church band, so the audio department needed a setup that would be easily scalable to changing artists as well as the church’s other events.

An Aviom Pro64 digital snake was selected to distribute audio, along with a Yamaha M7CL 48-Channel Digital Console for monitoring and mixing. Three 6416Y2 A-Net Interface Cards are installed in the mini-YGDAI card slots of the console, providing 48 channels in and 48 channels out over one CAT-5 cable between the console at front of house and the stage. Multiple RJ45 jacks placed in various locations on stage provide for connections to the Aviom Pro16 personal monitor mixers. This arrangement allows users of the space to have multiple setup options for the placement of their A-16II Personal Mixers. Both in-ear monitoring systems and monitor wedges can be used by the musicians, providing them with the monitoring option that best suits them. Though currently not in use, the church also has the option to remotely run the Yamaha digital console in the AV control room through a computer. In the future, the Aviom 6416Y2 cards will also allow the church to connect the FOH console with the one that will be used for broadcast.

The church was one of the first to install Aviom’s 6416m Mic Input Module. According to Dan Purdom, engineer for Ford Audio-Video, the systems integrators who handled the Denver Mile Hi installation, the Aviom mic pre provided the crew with remote control of the audio levels. “In a church such as Mile Hi where they’re using one space for a large number of events, adaptability is key. The 6416m Mic Input combined with the MCS and RCI allows the church’s audio engineer Nathan Marschall to make any changes to the preamps right from front of house as opposed to having to go on stage, which can interrupt the service.”

In Mile Hi’s old sanctuary, the monitors would get pretty loud because the PA system was right above them. Now, with the larger room and the new JBL sound system, there’s not as much interference. JBL Vertec 4887ADP-AN self-powered line arrays make up the main PA. Low-end reinforcement is provided by JBL Vertec 4881ADP-AN Subwoofers. Front-fill is provided by Renkus-Heinz SGX-42 stair-step speakers amplified by Crown Amplifiers. Front-fill processing is provided by a DBX 4820 DSP. This line array system was selected because it provides the sound levels needed for contemporary worship services in a compact package, making it easier to integrate into the architecture of the church. JBL Vertec 4887 self-powered line arrays are suspended above the platform along with the subwoofers to provide stereo coverage of the seating areas. The church also has the option to use System Architect® software to monitor and control the array loudspeakers and the front fill speakers built into the face of the platform.

In addition to a space that is multipurposed for live events, Mile Hi also wanted to make sure that the new technologies installed could be used for broadcast. The church had previously had a television show that ran for around 16 years on a major Denver network. Now the church would like to start with webcasting and then make the transition back to broadcast. To help these plans move forward, three Sony BRC 300 cameras were mounted in the center, left and right of the church, along the back wall. All of the cameras are remotely controlled by a Sony RMBR-300 joystick camera controller. There are fiber optical feeds from each camera position that provide digital video feeds and will allow the upgrade to full HD cameras in the future. With the joystick, the crew can select the camera it wants to control, and then can pan, zoom, balance the iris and more. During a typical service, the crew will have the cameras roaming to cover the minister or attendees participating in the service. The video is projected by two high definition Barco SLM-R12+ projectors onto two large, Da-Lite rear-projection screens that have been placed on the right and left sides above the platform. Using video production equipment and a projection system, the crew can show a video feed, bring up images, and show computer presentations.

Also in preparation for the move to webcasting/broadcasting, the church has an optical network connection from the new sanctuary to the old sanctuary. Output of the video and audio signals are being sent via Extron FOX fiber optic transmitter and receiver.

The entire budget for the new Mile Hi Sanctuary came from its parishioners, so those involved wanted to make sure to do the best job possible. By considering all potential uses for the space and carefully selecting its technologies, such as its adaptable, professional-grade AV system, Mile Hi has ensured that its new worship space will grow with it.

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