Choosing the Right Lighting System is Easier When You Know the Way
The number of large churches is on the rise, and with the increase in membership, many churches are beginning to look for new ways to enhance the religious experience of their worshippers. Some churches go about this enhancement by searching for ways to improve facilities, not only as a means of adding comfort and enjoyment, but as a way to infuse the worship experience with a deeper sense of spirituality.
There are a number of approaches toward that end, but one of the most effective ways a church can enhance the facility and worship service is to install an advanced lighting system in its sanctuary. While churches may realize the benefits of a lighting system, going about the process of choosing one can seem like a mystery. Mainly because of the expense involved and the permanent nature of a lighting system, it’s important to do a great deal of research and have a solid strategy in place before purchasing or putting up any lights.
The primary consideration should concern the type and number of performances and services the church is doing at present and what kinds of performances and services are likely to take place in the future. The chosen lighting system should support current needs, but more importantly, it should continue to support performances up to a decade down the road.
For this reason, many houses of worship are turning to automated lighting systems because of their versatility and the long-term advantages they offer over conventional lighting. Automated systems are typically easier to install; a fact that becomes very important when retrofitting older establishments and working with existing ceiling treatments.
Conventional lights generally use incandescent lamps, requiring more wires and conduit. Automated lights use discharge lamps and can be controlled via a single, low voltage cable. Automated lighting also provides a great deal more movement, color and beam pattern control, giving churches the flexibility to use the system for a multitude of services or productions as those productions grow in number and sophistication over the years.
Whether choosing an automated or conventional lighting system, most people can’t see 10 years into the future, especially when it concerns something that is new to them, but there are some individuals whose practical help in the initial stages will be invaluable. The first person to call will be a theater consultant. It’s best if this is someone from the church who is familiar with its annual productions and weekly services. But if there isn’t a member with this kind of background, most local theaters have an individual who is in charge of lighting and has experience working on a number of different types of shows. The theater consultant should be able to give some good advice regarding the kind of system that would be most beneficial to the church, including the number of luminaires, what type of control console would be best and what can be accomplished with the system.
After determining what type of system would be most effective, it’s time to get an idea of what specific luminaires and control console will be a good fit for your annual performances and weekly services.
Most churches that put on large, holiday productions already have contact with production companies who rent or sell lighting systems. These companies provide an excellent starting point from which to begin trying out luminaires and consoles. Most of them will be glad to set up tests or demos of different lights and boards.
Product demonstrations and information about a variety of lighting systems are also available at lighting trade shows. Information on when and where these trade shows take place can often be located on the Internet or by checking lighting and production trade publications such as LD+A and Entertainment Design. These publications are a good source of information regarding new products and general information concerning different lighting systems and companies.
When constructing a facility that includes a lighting system, it will be necessary to involve the architect in the process. The building should be designed to support a lighting system and provide adequate and safe space for both wiring and luminaires. Even if a building isn’t being constructed, there are architects who have a great deal of experience in the design of performance spaces. It would be beneficial to enlist the services of such an architect as he or she is likely to know a great deal more than a general contractor regarding wiring and construction requirements.
Choosing a lighting system can be a long process. Don’t get frustrated if things don’t move as quickly as you hoped. It’s much better to take the time to be sure rather than make the mistake of choosing a system that’s wrong for the church or one that will be outdated in few years. Though the process is fairly involved, contacting the right people and going through the consulting process can help your church get the best lighting system for its needs while preventing a lot of future headaches.