I remember the burnished oak seat that my hind side rested somewhat comfortably on as a child. The words were promising, empowering and filled with truths, but keeping my young mind tuned in to the pastor got tougher as this beautiful seat seemed to turn to stone. A slouch wouldn’t ease it. A lean wouldn’t either. And my pastor must have noticed others with the same plight. Do you remember when the new pews had cushions on them? Wow, can that be done? The message was now easier to hear, thanks to a comforting addition.
Tradition and values often set themselves into our way of life, which is a good thing. Sometimes a breath of fresh air, a cushion if you will, can help us keep sight of the message. The familiar old upright piano eventually led to the electric organ in a similar way that the familiar pin spot above the pulpit and choir has led us to the use of pattern projectors and moving lights during music specials. When presented in a subtle fashion, these lighting tools enhance the message and often bring new faces into the sanctuary. And after all, that’s what it’s all about, right?
High fidelity sound systems, atmospheric effects like fog and haze, and beautiful colors projected by intelligent lighting units have increased within the sanctuary during the last few years. The advantages of fully dimmable lighting and higher quality (not to mention indiscreet) stereo speakers have enhanced worship in all types of churches. Many of these improvements were closely held to stadium concert tours, music video, or perhaps large dance clubs in the country’s biggest cities, but now they’re more readily available to small and large churches alike. The mass production of these types of lighting and sound fixtures has allowed many smaller venues, including churches, to borrow some technology for their own purposes.
Gels have been used quite extensively within the theater world for quite a few years. This low-cost color media can be easily added to many existing lighting fixtures, as well as to the new state-of-the-art units available. Used predominantly indoors, the lighter hues have a longer life than the darker reds and blues. If a very rich color palette is required, newer ellipsoidals can be rented from local lighting suppliers to lengthen the life of the gel.
In the event music specials may run for several weeks, dichroic glass can be used with virtually any lighting fixture without fear of burning or discoloring. Offered in many subtle or vibrant colors, the dichroic-coated glass is designed with long-life in mind, using a specialized borosilicate glass that has inherent expansion qualities to keep it in one piece. The lighting of steeples, building cornerstones, and other outdoor architectural highlights are improved with the use of this incredible product.
An entire family of ‘intelligent lighting’ fixtures can be programmed using a DMX or analog desk, so that color changes are attained smoothly and graciously. Quite a large number of manufacturers offer this type of fixture with cyan, magenta and yellow ‘flags’ of dichroic glass within the unit. By changing the percentages of each of these colors over the beam of light, one is able to mix any variety of colors pleasing to the eye.
Patterns, commonly called ‘gobos’, have been used extensively throughout the theater world. These inexpensive metal stencils are made to fit any focusable lighting fixture. The patterns are available in a host of themes, including Easter, Christmas, wedding and party, and other enlightening images. Used as a centerpiece, or perhaps as a flowing design, the pattern can transform an otherwise unnoticed flat wall behind a choir into a forest glen, gothic church, or serene meadow.
When tastefully used, a low-lying fog can enhance the rolling away of the stone from Jesus’ tomb, declaring to the world a risen savior. Haze can be incorporated with subtle color to depict an evening at Gethsemane, or a rolling fog at the gates of Hades. These types of atmospheric effects are non-toxic, and are specifically made for use involving live performers. Most lighting rental companies carry several types of effects machines for weekend rental or longer.
As your church prepares for the holiday season, you may consider a few ‘cushions’ for the congregation to enjoy. When used to enhance, rather than distract, lighting effects can be used to open the doors to others in need.