Sunday, March 13, 2011

Its like Christmas in March

Because the fiscal year at Topeka Bible Church starts in March, that is the month that all the new gear that has been on our wish lists gets bought. We've been blessed to be able to upgrade to a Roland TD20x drum module, improve some of the components of our Aviom personal monitoring system, and pick up a smattering of other less noteworthy, but still fun, pieces of gear. But the real treat (and challenge) will arrive in about two weeks when our new lighting rig is delivered. Here's the low down:

200 feet of DMX cabling

The proliferation of LED lighting and more inexpensive control options is definitely a game changer for small and medium sized churches, allowing them to enter an arena once reserved for the mega-church in the next town. This is going to be quite a change for TBC, a church that has never really been equipped for emotional and creative lighting design. But purchasing and installing the gear is just the tip of the iceberg. It will be an exciting journey as volunteers learn to wield this powerful new tool.

The Elation 5Rs were at the top of my list from the beginning because of their insane versatility and low power draw. Its full motion, 22 gobos, motorized focus/iris, and small footprint make it perfect for our needs.

The Elation Opti Tri Par also have a low power draw, full RGB mixing, and three watt/TriColor LEDs. They are crazy bright, which is what we needed.

Finally, the ETC Smartfade ML. I looked at Jands and Lepricon and Elation and Martin and Freestyler and on and on. Basically we need rock solid reliability, easy control of conventionals and movers, and a tactile control surface for volunteers. For the price you can't beat the SFML. The Jands software-only system comes close but adding control surfaces gets pricey fast. So thats where we ended up. We really are not to the point of needing the control capabilities of a Hog or a full Jands console. Even if we do get to that level in a few years, the SFML is so affordable, I won't feel bad replacing it.

We hope to have the system up and running to unveil for Easter Sunday so there is definitely a lot of work coming our way!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What We've Done in 2010...Continued

In the previous post, I discussed some changes and improvements that we've made to gear and workflow in the Tech Arts department at TBC in the past few months. But, although a lot has changed and its always exciting to get new gear, its even more exciting to see the volunteers at TBC succeed and grow in their roles. As we've added new gear and streamlined processes, we've also seen growth on our team. Volunteers have expanded their skills and many have branched out and learned to serve in new technical areas. We've also been blessed to add several competent and motivated members to our Tech Arts family. This is exciting to me since, in the end, its not at all about the gear anyway. Its about serving our church body and helping people to worship, learn, and grow, both in our congregation and in our tech team. The gear is simply a tool we use to minister and it important to keep our priorities in order. Investing in people is our number one goal and the gear should never hinder or distract from that.

As technical artists in the church, it is often tempting to check out of the service and focus on our roles. To be fair, it is important that we pay careful attention to our jobs and do an excellent job. However, we often miss out on opportunities to worship and learn during a service. As members of the tech team, we can be just as engaged in worship and learning, as those in congregation. When musicians are leading worship, we assume that they are worshiping God, despite the fact that they play a complex instrument. The key is that they are so familiar and comfortable with their instruments, that the instruments and the music become secondary and instinctive. The same applies to the technical arts. When we grow confidence and understanding of our roles, it frees us to worship God, even while we serve. Will we always be able to have the same experience that those we are serving in the congregation will? No, probably not. But don't miss out on the opportunity to enjoy spiritual growth and renewal. In our line of work, technical growth can clear the way for spiritual growth.