When it comes to house of worship AV, the big, flashy churches tend to get the headlines. Those are the venues that require million-dollar installs that feature high-concept solutions that provide concert-level musical reproduction and clear, intelligible spoken word. But, although those types of spaces get the bulk of the attention, they do not represent the vast majority of churches whose audio and video needs AV integrators service every day. Mid-sized and small-scale ministries are just as important to an integration company’s bottom line, and there are countless storefront churches scattered across the U.S., each with its own unique needs.
Church of the Nations in Anchorage AK is, in a lot of ways, emblematic of these smaller churches. It represents a small religious community that serves its own particular niche; it hosts its services in a non-traditional church building; and, although it doesn’t boast a massive AV budget, it still requires AV technology to communicate its message effectively.
Church of the Nations is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America and SEED International Mission, as well as several local churches based in or around Anchorage. Since its founding in 2008, it has relied on preexisting church buildings, occupied by other ministries—primarily Anchorage’s First Native Baptist Church—to host its non-denominational services and community-outreach efforts. In addition to worship services, Church of the Nations’ main priority is to serve Anchorage’s large homeless population, the vast majority of whom are Alaska natives. To that end, Church of the Nations serves dinner after each of its Sunday gatherings, and it provides donated clothing and free haircuts to its neediest congregants.
Under the leadership of Senior Pastor Reverend Daniel Song and Associate Pastor Reverend John Kwon, as well as their wives, Grace Song and Yulie Kwon, Church of the Nations grew its congregation over the years to the point that finding its own, permanent location became a high priority. The church finally secured a home of its own—an unoccupied building in downtown Anchorage—last year.
“It was an office building before, and we did renovations to change it into a church building,” Grace Song said. “It’s a big, rectangular building with a basement, and then a first, second and third floor. Our main sanctuary is on the second floor. It’s just a normal, rectangle shape. It’s not that big, so it seats only about 95 people. We also have a small sanctuary on the first floor.” An additional overflow space, located on the second floor near the main sanctuary, brings the total number of worship spaces in the building to three.
Due to the size limitations of the building’s various rooms, Church of the Nations had to be creative in its use of overflow spaces, and it needed some AV assistance to make it happen. That’s where Palmer AK-based integrator Sound Decisions came into play. Father-and-son team Scott and Mason Wick were tasked with designing a complete AV system for Church of the Nations’ new venue and installing the system while the space was undergoing renovations in anticipation of its grand opening. The project included devising an audio system to cover the main sanctuary, as well as a video system to transmit a video feed from the main sanctuary to the two smaller overflow areas. In an interview, Mason Wick offered some insight into how Sound Decisions completed the task.
According to Wick, ensuring that the main sanctuary’s sound system met Church of the Nations’ expectations was the first priority. “They were looking for simple ease of use with growth capability built in, and long-term support from us to assist them when they have problems,” he explained. “They also wanted everyone to be able to hear the message no matter where they were sitting in the room.”
Spoken-word clarity was especially important to Church of the Nations, because the church’s leaders plan to use their new space to host more than just their weekly Sunday service. “During the week, we host sermons and bible study, and we also have seminars and conferences with other pastors,” Song said. “We need whatever we’re doing for the service to be clear and intelligible, to make sure we transmit our message to the congregation.”
In order to provide the coverage and clarity needed for the main sanctuary, the Wicks decided to install a single low-profile Danley Sound Labs SHmicro speaker as a main; it’s hung from the ceiling, near the front of the podium, in the middle of the room. “There were budget concerns, so we ended up downsizing from two speakers to one speaker,” Wick revealed.
In addition, a Community MX8-B eight-inch coaxial monitor is located near the lectern, serving the preacher and the band. The main and monitors are powered by an Ashly Audio KLR-2000 two-channel amplifier; one channel is used for the main, and one channel is used for the two monitors.
An Ashly Audio digiMIX24 digital mixing console runs the sound system. “The digiMIX24 was a perfect solution because of its ease of use, their budget constraints, its channels for expanding and the ability to be iPad controlled,” Wick explained. “The ability to be iPad controlled is something they really enjoy.” The iPad control function also helped Sound Decisions overcome the sanctuary’s lack of a suitable front-of-house mixing location. During services, the console is placed near the lectern, but it’s controlled by Church of the Nations’ AV volunteers from a more typical front-of-house position via iPad. Once the service is completed, the console is moved to a secure room for safekeeping.
Inputs for the main sanctuary sound system include four MIPRO ACT3-Series handheld wireless microphones. The wireless mics are used by the preachers during the spoken-word segments of the service, as well as by vocalists during musical performances. Although most small churches feature a four- or five-piece praise band, Church of the Nations generally only features a keyboard and vocals (and, sometimes, an acoustic guitar), so, it didn’t require much in the way of sound reinforcement for music. Indeed, because the main sanctuary is so small, Sound Decisions opted not to overpower the space with technology. However, the Wicks did leave open the option to add support for a full band down the road, should the church need it.
The main sanctuary video system consists of a Vivitek DU978-WT WUXGA 5000-lumen projector and a 60″x90″ Da-Lite Contour Electrol projection screen. The projector was hung using a Peerless AV CMJ500R1 suspended ceiling plate kit.
“The worship space has great views of the city, but the ceiling is pretty low compared to most worship spaces, so we had to think about that for the install,” Wick stated. “There were some aesthetic limitations, since the worship space is small. We were able to ceiling-mount the main speaker and projector, which kept them out of view. The projector is mounted near the middle of the room. And the screen is located in the front and off to house right, due to the low ceiling. We also had to make sure the Danley wasn’t in the way of the projection path.”
The video system is used for image magnification in the main sanctuary, as well as to display onscreen graphics and song lyrics. However, the main purpose of the video system is to transmit a live video feed of the main sanctuary to the two smaller overflow spaces. “We have three spaces, so they should be connected to each other,” Song said. “Our two other sanctuaries need to see the sermon, the preachers, the PowerPoint presentations and everything else. Any video that’s shown at the service, everyone needs to see.”
A single handheld camera operator captures the live feed of the main sanctuary. The video signal is transmitted to the overflow rooms via a Roland V-1HD four-channel video switcher, which is supported by an Intelix DIGI-1X4B-1H HDBaseT distribution amp with one HDMI input, four HDBaseT outputs and one HDMI output. In each of the two overflow rooms, video content is shown on a Vizio 70-inch display. A third Vizio 70-inch display is mounted on the back wall of the main sanctuary and used as a confidence monitor for the preacher and performers. Each Vizio display is equipped with an Intelix INT-HD70-RX HDBaseT receiver. All three Vizio displays were owner-provided.
“The Roland V-1HD is used with a presentation computer, a camera and additional HDMI inputs, all operated by a church volunteer,” Wick said. “The receivers are located at each of the 70-inch Vizio screens to convert the data coming in HDBaseT to HDMI. The DIGI-1X4B-1H takes the incoming HDMI from a laptop or other device and sends out HDBaseT to the projector and the HD70 receivers.”
In addition to the video feed being transmitted from the main sanctuary to the overflow spaces, all video content is recorded and later uploaded to the Church of the Nations website to support the church’s outreach efforts in the community—that way, even the congregation’s elderly, disabled and homebound members can participate in services.
Although Church of the Nations’ AV needs have a lot in common with many of the smaller and mid-sized churches located in America’s urban centers, the house of worship faced a unique set of challenges because of the harsh realities of its geography. Because the church is located in Alaska, it was a minor challenge to get some of the equipment shipped out to the site.
“Alaska is a bit tricky,” Wick admitted. “We end up paying more for shipping…that’s for sure! Luckily, we have good vendors that are willing to work with us. We build shipping into our cost, and we try to inform our customers of the longer lead times.” He continued, “The screen from Da-Lite and the speakers from Danley are custom built, so they are always a custom order. It usually takes two or three weeks for them to get the speakers built from when we order them. Then, we usually ship them to Kent WA, where we have a freight forwarder. It especially helps cut down the cost for items that are oversized, like the screen.”
Church of the Nations’ leadership was impressed by how much Sound Decisions was able to accomplish with relatively little to work with. “The sound is very good,” Song enthused. “I thought we would need more amps, because we only have one amp…a small one. So, before I heard it, I thought, ‘Is it going to be enough power or not?’ But the sound is so big that, when I heard it, I thought, ‘Oh, OK…it’s good.’”
The video distribution system, meanwhile, serves to keep both of the overflow rooms connected to the main sanctuary, which will serve Church of the Nations well as it continues to spread its ministry to a growing congregation.