Especially when it comes to contemporary church services, lighting can play an important role in the creation of engaging worship environments. Creatively and sensitively designed lighting can enhance the atmosphere of a space – working together with music, words and other visual elements such as video projections – to create a worshipful setting that draws in worshippers and directs them towards God. It was for this reason that Covenant United Methodist Church recently invested in a series of progressive upgrades to the lighting system in their contemporary worship space.
Based in Dothan, Alabama, Covenant United Methodist Church has a membership of over 2000 and offers three worship services each Sunday. The first two – one more traditional and one more contemporary – are hosted in the church’s large main sanctuary, while the third is a cutting-edge worship experience called ‘Collide’ which takes place in the church’s converted on-campus gym. The visual aesthetics of this gathering are considered extremely important and services are live-streamed online, which gives another reason to ensure good illumination, therefore the church recently decided to upgrade the venue’s lighting system.
The church gym is also used for one-off concerts and other special events and therefore has been setup with a stage and AV system for many years. However the lighting system was becoming dated, so the church reached out to Dave Guiler and his company Premiere Entertainment Group for advice on upgrading the space’s lighting equipment.
After starting out as a DJ business 16 years ago, Premiere now offers event production as well as sound, lighting and video installation services, specializing in churches and church events. Having visited Covenant, and gained an understanding of their current setup and what they hoped to achieve, Dave suggested a rolling program of lighting upgrades that could be carried out over a series of stages as and when finances became available.
The first of these to be carried out was the installation of 10 ADJ Mega Bar RGBA linear LED fixtures that were fixed to the roof of the venue above the stage. Each 42-inch bar packs in 320 10mm red, green, blue and amber LEDs to produce a wide, even wash of light across an extremely diverse palette of colors. At Covenant, they provide a vibrant down washing of the stage and set, which provides a base look from which the other fixtures that were installed later can be used to build upon.
The next phase of the lighting upgrade involved adding in moving head wash fixtures to enhance the stage with movement and energy. Dave supplied eight of ADJ’s Inno Color Beam Z7 LED-powered wash fixtures that feature motorized zoom with a wide variable beam angle of between 10 and 60-degrees. These were arranged in two stacks of four, rigged to hanging ladder-style mounting bars positioned at either side of a large central projection screen.
As Dave explains, both the model of fixture and the positioning of the units within the stage setup were carefully considered, “The guys at Covenant really liked the fact that they were able to get an extremely tight beam, for mid-air effects, as well as a nice broad wash, for side lighting the stage, from the same fixture – which is why they went for the Inno Color Beam Z7s. However, positioning them was a little bit more challenging. The real big issue that we had with the whole install is that the stage is only around 18 feet deep, and they have a whole lot going on, with a big band and multiple singers. So the challenge was: how can we make this as flexible as possible, using a minimum amount of stage space. They also wanted to keep a large central screen for displaying song words, so we decided that flanking it with the Z7s was the best solution. This allows for side infill color washes, complementing the Mega Bars above, but also means that dynamic midair effects can be introduced at the side of the screen.”
The final stage in the upgrade process was the replacement of existing outdated moving head profile fixtures with ADJ’s versatile Vizi BSW 300 hybrid beam, spot and wash model. Dave supplied a total of eight fixtures, installing four flown from the roof above the projection screen and mounting the others on existing truss plinths behind the band. This means that the screen is now surrounded by four moving heads on each side, allowing for the creation of a wide variety of engaging stage looks as well as aerial effects and GOBO projections.
Explaining the choice of Vizi BSW 300s Dave says, “We own Vizi Spot 5Rs and Vizi Beam 5Rs, that we use within the event production part of our business, and the Covenant team had seen them in action and liked both types of effect. I explained that they’d need multiples of each for them to be effective but that the Vizi BSW 300s could be used to achieve both looks and also provide additional washes. They really fell in love with that idea, so it became a very easy sell. The key to the decision was definitely flexibility, but the high output, low power draw and wide maximum beam angle were also importance considerations. Price was also something that had to be taken into consideration, as budgets were tight. However, the guys at the church were pleasantly surprised by the affordability of the BSWs, as I originally quoted for four and then they came back and said, ‘let’s go ahead and go with eight’! The Vizi BSW 300 is just an all-round workhorse and was definitely the perfect choice for this project.”
Power was another important consideration across the whole project, as the Covenant Gym only has a limited electrical supply. The use of all LED-powered fixtures from ADJ meant that an impressive lightshow could be created without overloading the fuse boards and also has the added advantage that the installation is essentially maintenance-free with no need for lamp replacements as with older fixtures that used halogen-based light sources.
The final reason that Dave recommended not only the Vizi BSW 300s, but all of the ADJ products used for the lighting upgrade, is reliability. “We’ve been proud users of ADJ equipment for many years, taking it out on the road with us every weekend, and it has always proven to be very reliable,” he explains. “When it comes to installation projects, our reputation is on the line if we supply something that doesn’t prove to be reliable. But we’ve been selling ADJ for several years now and we’ve never had anything but smiling faces from our customers. So, for his project, because the fixtures also perfectly matched the client’s needs, ADJ was the obvious choice.”
The difference the new lighting system has made to the weekly Collide services is significant. It is not only brighter and punchier than what they had before, but it has provided the technical team with a much wider toolbox of effects to use to complement and enhance different songs and worship activities. The combination of the vibrant static washes from the Mega Bar RGBAs, dynamic washes and beams from the Vizi Inno Color Beam Z7s and the versatile spot, wash and beam projections from the Vizi BSW 300s combine to create a compact, yet impactful and truly versatile lighting system that enhances the worship experience for this dynamic congregation.
Summing up his thoughts on the project, Dave said, “The difference between how the lighting looked before we started this series of upgrades and how it looks now is really like comparing night and day. It looks incredible and the team at the church have really been impressed by both the individual fixtures and the overall impact that the complete installation has had on the worship space.”
Covenant United Methodist Church Staff