Port City Community Church
There’s a funny scene in the Monty Python comedy film, Life of Brian, in which members of the crowd gathered at the Sermon on the Mount are having trouble hearing Jesus. At one point, after Jesus had just blessed the “peace makers”, a man asks for clarification, and another man responds, “I think he said, blessed are the cheese makers,” to which a woman responds, “What’s so special about the cheese makers?”. It’s a funny scene based on a silly concept, but it did get me wondering if people in the back of crowds really had trouble hearing public speakers in those days. I Googled it and found that I am not the only person to have wondered about this – there are actual debates about the topic online.
I don’t know about other public speakers in Biblical times, but Jesus seemed to have access to miraculous solutions that others didn’t – so I’m confident He found a way to overcome acoustical issues and ensure His messages were heard clearly by all listeners. Still I wonder, had there been microphones, amplifiers, video feeds and other advanced audio-visual equipment available back then (not to mention electricity), would Jesus have taken advantage of them? The fact that He taught using parables and storytelling to convey His lessons suggests to me that He would not hesitate to leverage the best possible tactics to deliver his message.
I suppose we may never know that answer, but one thing we do know is that today, more and more churches are using audio-visual equipment and technology to power up their services. I recently attended a service (as a visitor) at a contemporary Christian church in my town called, Port City Community Church (PC3) – and they did an amazing job of integrating audio-visual elements into the service, which for me, made the service more engaging and the content more digestible and clear. While the contemporary style may not resonate with all churchgoers, the popularity of contemporary services suggests that many people do prefer a high energy setting featuring praise bands with electric guitars and sophisticated light shows over organ pipes and choirs, and prefer less formal, more interactive presentations featuring videos and graphics projected on large, theatre-like screens over long scripture readings and sermons being read by a priest standing stationary at a raised podium.
Working for a company involved in audio-visual equipment rental, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about the role of AV in churches. I reached out to the AV staff at PC3, and they put me in touch with Carson Goslee, an AV engineer who graciously agreed to an interview. Carson had some valuable insights – here are the highlights of our Q and A…
Q: What kind of audio-visual equipment does PC3 use during its services?
A: Here at PC3 we have four campuses, three mobile and one permanent location. We have tried, as we have expanded, to keep a lot of our gear the same across the board for all of our campuses. Here are some really quick specific examples:
Video: We have a combination of different video switchers between all of our campuses and rooms; starting with a FOR-A video switcher that powers our main auditoriums video system. The switcher runs four CG (computer graphics) and around seven cameras on an average Sunday. Other auditoriums have either a small 4 channel Panasonic switcher or a black magic ATEM switcher. The cameras we use are Hitachi and JVC Studio Cameras on tripods toward the back of our room and what we call “mobile cameras” that are on the stage shooting the band that are all Panasonic HPX 170.
Lighting: Most of the lighting consoles that we run are Congo lighting Consoles made by ETC. We currently have two Congo kids and two Congo JRs. We have numerous conventional Lecos and Pars in our ceiling as well as LED Par Fixtures. As far as moving lights go Marin Mac 250 is the name of the game.
Audio: Specifically in the area of audio we have been able to purchase a lot of the same gear for all of our campuses and venues. This helps training, troubleshooting, efficiency, and compatibility. All of our campuses main auditoriums run Venue Console made by Avid. The three mobile campuses we have are all running the Profile Series of consoles. Meanwhile, at our permanent location we have the larger control surface console called the Venue D Show. As far as speakers are concerned – pretty much all of our speakers have come from our good friends at Renkus Heinz. They truly do make a great PA and we couldn’t be happier with the cost and return that we have experienced with them.
Q: Did you and your team set up the infrastructure/wiring etc. for the audio-visual operations, or did you have an outside company assist with the initial set-up?
A: A lot of the initial install at the permanent location was done by a company out of Atlanta called, Clark Pro Media. This is a great company and great group of guys. Over the past several years we have tweaked the initial install. However, the base line and roots of our system can be accredited to the fine people at Clark.
Q: Why do you think PC3 decided to make sophisticated audio-visual effects (light, sound, video etc.…) such a prominent part of the church experience?
A: Production serves as a very effective way to engage people, and when done well, it gives people the most comfortable environment to worship and learn in. Church, in my opinion, should be a place where people of any background can come and learn about God and leads them to a life in Christ. My desire for the people in the seats of our church is that they can come and experience the gospel in a way that is so unforgettable that they cannot wait to come back the following weekend. Production plays a role in that. Is it too loud? Can you here what the pastor or worship leader is saying 100 percent of the time? Does the music sound good and sound like something you would want to listen to? Are the camera cuts on screen helpful or are they distracting? These are questions I love to ask myself and my team of volunteers.
Q: Do you think the stimulating, engaging aspect of PC3’s audio-visual experience helps to attract and retain congregants? If so, please elaborate…
A: I am a huge believer in the idea that people should enjoy attending church. Why would you want to attend anything that is not enjoyable for you and your family? I think that (for the most part) people that attend our church enjoy the production elements that we are able to provide. Our production staff mission is to “create an engaging experience within a distraction-free environment.” The opportunity we have as production staff is to help create an environment where people can meet Jesus and feel comfortable in the process.
Q: Do you think the sounds and visuals aid in your Pastors’ ability to communicate their messages – and in turn help congregants to gain a better understanding of the intended messages? Please elaborate on the impact/inspiration that AV has on the delivery and reception of the message.
A: Yes, the different things we are able to do on a Sunday to assist our pastor or whoever the communicator is in getting their message across can be highly helpful. Example: A guest speaker wanted to present a fake wedding at the beginning of his talk. He wanted it to seem real – he asked for flowers on stage, the bride walking down the aisle with an organ playing – the whole nine yards. Our team was able to light it effectively, put every second of the demonstration on screen, and shoot it in a way that when it was broadcast to our other campuses, it looked and sounded great.
Q: If the vibrant, dynamic experience made possible by the AV equipment attracts more people to come, and to return to PC3, and also helps them understand the message being delivered – is it reasonable to say that “Jesus loves AV companies”?
A: As we all know, production gear can be very expensive and a very large investment in a church setting. I think that anything you do to the best of your ability glorifies God. When you have a team of workers and volunteers that are giving their time to the mission and vision of their church, and are all working together to spread the message of Jesus; yes, I think that absolutely glorifies God. When people see something done well, nine times out of ten they are going to want to be a part of it. When people see the production, music, media content and message all working together for the purpose of creating a church where people can be reached and people can be helped in their faith; yes, I think that has unlimited potential in the context of a church.
Q: Please describe the preparation (from an AV perspective) for each Sunday. How do you and the church leaders work together to ensure that the AV elements are aligned with the presentation each Sunday?
A: Here at Port City there is always a lot going on, which makes preparation very important. Preparation can make or break any event or service. Generally speaking, on Tuesday our creative/programming team will meet to finalize the upcoming service and start conversations about the weeks ahead. This is when a lot of the decisions are made about what we will do to enhance the service and make the most of the hour and five minutes we are fortunate to have with the people in our seats on Sunday.
Another critical tool we use is an online application called Planning Center. If you’re church is not using this program now, you should be. The application allows us to create profiles for all of our volunteers and schedule them into the weekend plan. It is a centralized, shared interface where the entire team can go to review event schedules and confirm who is working each event. It is a great tool and we would be LOST without it! You can see it here: http://get.planningcenteronline.com/
Q: Have there been any memorable AV bloopers or funny stories related to technical difficulties?
A: These are the stories that tend to keep me up at night… I can count specifically four times over the past six months where something has happened like a microphone cutting out because of the batteries dying very abruptly or a computer messing up and creating an awful static through our track channel. Anytime that we have something go wrong I choose to not look at it as a failure and instead look at it as an opportunity for our team to get better. The momentum that you can capitalize on after something goes wrong is unmatched. The other thing that those moments create is the opportunity to implement another backup plan to the routine. For example, several months ago one the wireless packs for the communicator went out with about five minutes left in the talk. We didn’t really have a backup plan in place that night because we didn’t have a full stage team as we are used to having on a normal Sunday. Result: we now have a wired microphone in the front corner of our stage. The entire wireless system could go down and we would have sound back as quickly as the speaker could bend down and grab the mike. It’s operational adjustments like these that will prove to be invaluable when you have 1800 people in the room and another 2000 watching from three other campuses.
For many people today (especially younger people), the music, lights and dynamic presentations made possible by AV technology are key factors in their decision to attend a particular church. I wonder if Jesus would be an advocate for the use of AV equipment in church services.? If He returned today, would His oral presentations all be preceded by a sound check? What do you think?
The KWIPPED staff would like to thank Carson Goslee and PC3 for participating in this interview and contributing to this article. You can check out PC3 at http://www.portcitychurch.org/.
KWIPPED (a short, slang term meaning “Equipped”) is an innovative, online equipment rental marketplace where businesses can quickly locate and rent the equipment they need from a global network of KWIPPED suppliers. KWIPPED currently services more than 500 equipment categories across 17 industries, including audio-visual. Visit KWIPPED at http://www.localhost.com/.