The Uprising, St. Paul's Church, Hebron, Maryland
An aging facility sports an updated space with new audio, video, and lighting systems

by Dawn Allcot

In the past decade, under the ministry of Pastors Bill and Ruth Cropper, The Uprising, St. Paul's Church in Hebron, Maryland, has experienced phenomenal growth. Services held during the mid-1990s attracted 40 or 50 worshippers; today, between 500 and 600 members and guests attend the two Sunday services.

A key component in the construction of The Uprising, St Paul's Church new facility was incorporating technology (sound, lights and video) in the overall plan to help facilitate a contemporary worship experience as well as provide a setting that would accommodate conferences and concerts for additional community outreach.
(Photo courtesy of John Wiggins)

  (Photo courtesy of John Wiggins)

Tony Hersch, president of Audiobahn, overseesThe Uprising, St Pauls' tech crew at opening day for the facility.
(Photo courtesy of John Wiggins)

Community TD218S subs are encased in concrete under the stage.
(Photo courtesy of John Wiggins)

A left-center-right system of Community Professional SLS920 loudspeakers make up the main P.A. while the lighting system consists of a mix of fixtures from ETC and Robe.
(Photo courtesy of John Wiggins)

Dean Gladden and Jamie Gladden of Gladden Construction
Company, Fruitland, MD.
(Photo courtesy of John Wiggins)

In 2005, the congregation began to outgrow its sanctuary, and a building project began to create a new worship facility with a 900-seat sanctuary and state-of-the-art A/V and lighting systems.

The sound system in the old space consisted of "speakers on sticks" and a 15-channel mixing board, while a single screen projected worship lyrics during services. Theatrical lighting was non-existent.

For members of the Methodist church, including Dean Gladden of Gladden Construction, the general contractor for the building project, the new audio, video, and lighting systems were a logical progression in the church's growth. "In today's world, we are competing with all kinds of technology in different forms. It wasn't a matter of if we would go mainstream, but how we were going to achieve it," Gladden says. "We also wanted our church to perform more outreach to the community by hosting conferences and concerts."

Gladden was the primary contact between church staff and the A/V contractor, Pottstown, Pennsylvania-based Audiobahn Inc.

Audiobahn President Tony Hersch says that having the builder as his main church contact expedited aspects of the project and helped the sound and video installation go smoothly.

"It was refreshing to have the general contractor involved with the church," Hersch says. "It eliminated a lot of confusion transferring information between church staff and the general contractor. Critical decisions could be addressed instantly."

Audiobahn designed and installed the sound and video systems and specified acoustical treatments for the space. The budget for audio and video was $80,000. In order to keep costs down, the church installed the lighting systems. Jason Yost, multimedia and missions pastor at The Uprising, and Jamie Gladden of Gladden Construction oversaw the lighting installation.

"More Realistic Sound"
"The sound, video, and lights were top priority, so our goal was to provide the best quality we could," Gladden reports.

Long-throw clarity for vocal content was extremely important, due to the size and shape of the sanctuary. Hersch installed a left-right-center system, with three Community SLS920 cabinets in the center front of the sanctuary and single cabinets for left-right. According to Hersch, the SLS Series dedicated mid-range compression driver gives the loudspeaker clear vocal intelligibility at several hundred yards. "We were able to achieve a concert level reproduction completely free of any distortion or abnormalities," Hersch says.

Eight Community CLOUD6 six-inch ceiling speakers are located beneath the balcony, and CPL27T dual eight-inch two-way loudspeakers provide above-balcony fill.

To achieve booming bass that literally shakes the room, Hersch relied on a tactic sometimes employed in very high-end dance clubs. The contractor installed TD218S double 18-inch subs, encased in concrete, beneath the stage. "When you concrete-encase a subwoofer, you can increase its acoustic output upwards of 9-12 decibels," Hersch explained. "We were able to dial the subs down to less than the top cabinets for balanced sound and bass that really shakes the place."

Speakers are driven by a selection of QSC amplifiers.

Community XLT41E stage monitors and an Aviom in-ear system handle monitoring. A "Buttkicker" low-frequency shaker module was installed for the drummer, allowing him to feel the low frequency vibrations.

A variety of Shure and Audix microphones were selected for praise band amplification and spoken word.

Hersch specified Conwed Designscape acoustical panels throughout the venue, which were placed on the sidewalls to eliminate flutter echo in the middle of the room, on the balcony face, and on the rear walls above and below the balcony to eliminate slap-back. A Georgia Stage Commando curtain behind the stage eliminates high-frequency slap off the back wall of the stage.

Finally, a GL2800 mixer from Allen & Heath rounds out the sound system. Hersch especially liked the mixer's matrix-out capability, which permits the sound engineer to adjust the under- and above-balcony fills directly through the console. The mixer has enough aux sends to handle stage monitoring and effects sends, as well.

Extensive Video Systems
The new facility has plasma screens in the lobby and nursery, dual 90- by 120-inch front projection screens on either side of the sanctuary platform, and confidence monitors onstage for the praise band. Prior to the service, all screens run PowerPoint presentations promoting upcoming events and church news.

During services, the PTLB60U Panasonic projectors and the plasma monitors all receive a feed from a Kramer VP-719XL switcher, allowing signal from a camera, DVD player, or a computer to be routed to the displays. A Sanyo VCC6854 fixed focus digital camera is mounted on the balcony lip and pointed toward the platform for image magnification (IMAG).

Video is transmitted across Intelix Cat5 baluns through a Kramer distribution system.

The Da-Lite screens are mounted on hollow walls erected for the sole purpose of holding the screens. Motorized screens had been considered, but Hersch came up with a more cost-effective solution to create an optimal viewing angle: to build angled walls right next to the stage, and mount the screens on those walls, high above the stage floor. "The decision was made instantly and we drew the chalk lines right there," he reports, spotlighting the benefit of having one contact as both the church representative and general contractor.

Lighting Above and Beyond
The newly designed walls also became a display area for intelligent lighting patterns. The same gobo pattern on the side walls ties the space together, creating a visual flow.

The lighting system, installed by Drew Freyder from House of Faith Church in Gonzales, Louisiana, Jamie Gladden, and Yost, consists of a collection of ETC Source Four PARs and Source Four ellipsoidals, and ROBE Show Lighting Color Mix 240s, along with a Zero 88 Leap Frog console. "We wanted to step it up as far as our lighting and production," Yost says, "but we also wanted it to be very user-friendly, because our lights are run by volunteers."

The new systems, he says, will give touring acts everything they need in the way of sound equipment, but they may want to bring in some of their own stage lighting if they require moving lights.

Training Volunteers
To operate the new systems, the church expanded its volunteer technical staff from a crew of four volunteers to approximately 14, says Yost.

Yost took a strategic approach to recruiting, handpicking a core team, which included volunteers ranging in age from 15 to 40 who have an intense interest in media. With this "inner circle" trained, he recruited additional volunteers, who would be influenced by his primary volunteer staff.

He met with each volunteer to go over the basics of the new Leapfrog board, and then invited each volunteer to mid-week practice for hands-on experience.

Hersch also took a hands-on approach to training the audio staff, during a full-day session that he called "a whirlwind of information."

When it's over, every tech volunteer understood his or her role, as well as the roles of the other volunteers and performers.

Because volunteers may not be familiar with technical jargon, Hersch uses a lot of analogies to explain technical concepts in his training sessions. He covers basics including mixing techniques, layering the mix, monitoring decibel levels, and adjusting in-ear monitors for the musicians. Most importantly, Hersch says, he stresses the relationship between the band and the performers and technical crew. "They learn during training that it's critical to listen to the sound engineer during the performance. The guy behind the board is in charge during the performance," he says.

And he adds, "We installed a concert sound system at The Uprising, and it was important to teach the volunteers how to use it professionally. At the end of the day, you could tell their brains were full, but they were eager and willing to learn, as well as excited to be working with the new gear."

Community Outreach
That excitement extended to the congregation members during The Uprising's opening services, which drew about 800 people. "It was a packed house," Yost says. "People are excited about the direction we're headed, and they're excited about the resources we have to reach people."

Since its opening, the new space has hosted public service conferences and a fine arts convention. Yost revealed plans to host at least two large concert events per year.

Gladden echoes Yost's enthusiasm for the new systems: "There is such an excitement within the congregation and even in the community. We have new visitors each week and the response is very positive. We are enjoying all the resources that have been made available to us, which have kicked our media ministry up a notch."

Dawn Allcot is a regular contributor to Church Production and Worship Facilities magazines.


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