For the elders, staff and
congregants of Columbus
Baptist Church in the Columbus,
N.J., suburb of Mansfield
Township, their new sanctuary
is most certainly something of a
divine miracle. The mixed
contemporary church, whose
mission of "being a lighthouse
for our region" underscores
their deep involvement in the
local community, had long
ago outgrown their
original 18th century,
New Jersey's Columbus Baptist Church
celebrates moving up without moving too far
B y Da n i e l K e l l e r
THE MIXING CONSOLE
Photo (right): "We knew going in that we needed to design a system that was exceptionally versatile," says Audiobahn's Tony Hersch, pictured above with the church's new Allen & Heath ML3000 audio mixing console."
For nearly five years, the church searched for a larger piece of land in the community on which to build, all the while camping on their own grounds in a large inflatable structure. Last year the church received a surprising and unexpected sign that they were, in fact, already in the right place. Within a short period of time, more than five acres of adjoining land on three adjacent properties became available for purchase, enabling the church to expand their existing campus to a spacious seven acres, and allowing them to remain and build right where they were. Recently the church opened the doors to their new 16,000-square-foot multi-purpose building. The space will serve as a 500-plus seat sanctuary, first and foremost, but was designed to be easily adaptable to host a wide range of functions, from community meetings and events to plays and local sporting meets.
|"It's a very upbeat, contemporary
service, with some really great musicians, and we knew we wanted an audio system that would do justice to the music."
- Tony Hersch, Audiobahn Inc., Pottstown, Pa.
Audio, video and lighting systems for the new building were designed and installed by Audiobahn Inc. of Pottstown, Pa., a company specializing in systems design for worship facilities. As Audiobahn's Tony Hersch explains, the room's design as a multi-purpose facility presented its own set of challenges. "We knew going in that we needed to design a system that was exceptionally versatile," he says. "Beyond that, there were a number of changes and refinements during the construction phase, and we had to be pretty flexible in our overall system design." Musical performance, however, was always a main priority. "It's a very upbeat, contemporary service, with some really great musicians, and we knew we wanted an audio system that would do justice to the music," says Hersch. "Ultimately, the goal was to create a system that would be versatile enough to cover a wide range of functionality, but first on the list was the need for great musical performance."
The church watched the new building take shape for nearly a year, while meeting in a tent structure adjacent to the construction site. Pastor John Grove, who has led Columbus Baptist Church since 1981, reports that the new audio system more than delivers in terms of intelligibility.
The audio system is based around a cluster of three Community iHP-1599 two-way 15- inch systems, powered by QSC PLX-series amps. "I've used the Community iBox on a number of projects over the past few years," says Hersch. "It's a great sounding system for music, and delivers great intelligibility for spoken word. And it's a really cost-effective solution. Even in a very wide space like this one, a cluster of only three iBoxes is more than powerful enough to cover the entire room."
Low-frequency coverage is provided by a pair of iHP218 dual 18-inch subwoofers. The subs are installed in concrete encasements beneath either side of the stage. "We created two concrete-lined cavities at the bottom of either side of the proscenium," Hersch explains. "By placing the subs to the sides, rather than directly under the stage, we were able to minimize low-frequency buildup on stage. It also left them space under the stage, which is where they can store their stacking chairs when they have other events."
Hersch portrays the room's acoustical challenges as minimal. "The room is pretty well designed, acoustically," he says, describing it as roughly the size and shape of a large basketball court. "The stage is recessed into one of the long walls, with the front-of-house area recessed into the opposite wall. The side walls were intentionally designed out of parallel, and the ceiling's not all that high - about 20 feet or so - with plenty of exposed beams and ductwork, so the room doesn't really have any tremendous reverberation issues." Conwed Designscape Respond Resist two-inch acoustical panels are applied to the rear wall to minimize reflections from the stage, and a sporting-grade carpet covers the floor.
The rest of the audio chain includes Ashley Protea digital EQs, TC Electronic DSP and dbx compression. On the stage, monitoring is handled by six Community XLT41E two-way 12-inch monitors, with personal control via Aviom A16 controller systems. Microphones include Shure SLX wireless and hard-wired mics and Countryman E6i head-worn condensers. One more piece of the puzzle was recently completed when the sanctuary's aging front-of-house console - the only component inherited from the previous building's system - was replaced with a new 40-channel Allen & Heath ML-3000 desk.
Hersch notes being particularly pleased with the new Community iBox. "We've used Community's 12-inch (iHP1299) iBox and been quite happy with it," he reports. "But this was the first time we'd used the 15- inch box, and we were really impressed. It sounds terrific."
Steve Jackson, Columbus Baptist's audio director, concurs. Jackson, a member of the church's praise band and a former professional musician, wasn't initially interested when Hersch suggested the Community iBox. "I hadn't been exposed to Community speakers since I'd worked as a musician back in the 1970s, and to be honest, I really associated them more with voice-grade performance than with quality audio," he says. "But I must say, I was really pleased and pleasantly surprised by how great the system sounds."
Hersch reports that the staff of Columbus Baptist was proactively involved in the entire project, with exceptionally positive results. "We received good input from a number of people, all of which was really helpful," he says. "Bob Nutt, the church's project manager, really did a wonderful job coordinating the overall project, bringing together the right people within each area of the ministry to facilitate the decision-making process."
To both sides of the stage, the proscenium walls are slightly curved, no doubt offering a challenge in mounting the dual Da-Lite projection screens. Two 3,000-lumen Panasonic PT-FW100NTU LCD projectors serve the screens, with independent source selection courtesy of a Kramer VP4X4 matrix switching unit. A Kramer VP416 VGA upscaler and Panasonic DVDS77S DVD player comprise the rest of the video system. Both audio and video components are housed in Middle Atlantic racks at frontof- house position.
Lighting is controlled by a Leprecon LP- 1524DMX 24/48 programmable console, along with three Leprecon LWD2400 12- channel wall-mount dimmers. A series of Altman StarPar and 360Q ellipsoidal lights and Sylvania 575 watt theatrical lamps are mounted on custom-designed connector strips from Performance Electric. Heavy theatrical- grade curtains complete the vision. "Georgia Stage made us some great stage curtains," says Hersch. "They really were the visual icing on the cake."
Having watched the new building taking shape just outside the tent structure for nearly a year, congregants and staff alike have been filled with anticipation. No one has been disappointed, and the new audio system in particular has been scoring good reviews. Pastor John Grove, who has led Columbus Baptist Church since 1981, reports that the system more than delivers in terms of intelligibility.
"To me, the most important priority is that every person in our congregation can hear and understand [the] spoken word," says Pastor Grove. "People are here to hear His message, and it's frustrating when someone is sitting in a seat where the sound is less than clear. But I've heard from several congregants, even those sitting in the far outside seats, who have told me how wonderful it is to be able to hear every word clearly."
QUICKLINKS TO THE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES USED AT COLUMBUS BAPTIST CHURCH
Allen & Heath Audio Mixing Consoles, (800) 431-2609 | Ashly Audio Digital Processing, (585) 872-0010, | Aviom Personal monitors, (610) 738-9005
| Audiobahn Inc., Design and Installation (610) 781-9801 |
Loudspeakers (800) 523-4934 | Countryman
Microphones, (650) 364-9988 | Da-Lite Video Projection Screens, (800) 622-3737 | dbx Compressors, (801) 568-7660 | Kramer Electronics Video Switchers, (908) 735-0018 | Leprecon Lighting Controllers and Dimmers, (810) 231-9373 | Panasonic Video Projectors, (800) 524-1448 | Shure Inc.
Microphones & Wireless Systems, (800) 257-4873 | TC Electronics Digital Signal Processors