Business, House Of Worship

HOW: Business: Let There Be Light

According to the Bible, on the first day of creation, God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Obviously, light enables us to see. The beautiful colors of autumn would have no meaning without daylight. During the Christmas season, houses, buildings, shopping malls and Christmas trees are covered in colorful or creative lighting to celebrate the festive season. A Picasso or a Monet would not have much impact if displayed using fluorescent lights. In fact, people look unhealthy when illuminated by off-the-shelf fluorescent lighting. Yet, many Houses of Worship (HOWs) use light sources in their worship space featuring these unflattering fluorescents, mercury vapor fixtures and other fixtures that produce unpleasant color temperatures.

If the people attending these HOWs are fine with using fluorescent lights, then should we try to persuade them to use other types of light sources that are more flattering to human skin and the worship space? I have three responses:

  • There are older HOWs with older congregations that simply don’t realize or consider that there are better ways to illuminate their worship space. Thus, we are not imposing any unnatural aesthetics, nor harming any feelings, by helping them consider that there are better lamps for their path.
  • In contrast to my first response, there is a growing consciousness (or awareness) of more pleasing ambient and architectural light sources. Not all HOWs require theater lighting; however, all HOWs can benefit from lighting that illuminates the worship space in simple but pleasing ways.
  • As you know, many HOWs are adding video cameras and projectors to enhance their worship experience. During the process, they are realizing that they need to add and use light fixtures that positively impact the video they are creating, and the ambience of their worship space.

These three cases do not represent all of the lighting issues found within the HOW context, but they do provide a coarse summary of the ways that HOW leaders view lighting. The core message that we should communicate with every HOW is that poor lighting hinders the audience from engaging in the worship experience. If you have to strain to see the person who is talking, then people will grow tired of looking.

The core message we should
communicate is that poor lighting
hinders the audience from engaging in the worship experience.

Personally, I believe that poor lighting can also be defined as too much lighting. I have been inside HOWs where they are using 12 Par 64s and four moving lights to illuminate and highlight a lot of space, and these solutions do a great job. I have also observed HOWs that use so many lights that I feel like I am at a Taylor Swift concert, or standing in downtown Las Vegas.

I am not arguing for a right and wrong option here, but I do believe that we should help HOW leaders understand key concepts that are vital to creating effective lighting for their worship space. Here are a couple of concepts that might help HOW leaders:

  • An expensive lighting console (or a cheap console) is not going to make lighting better if the lighting fixtures are not properly positioned. Ideally, lighting fixtures should be placed at 45º angles to properly illuminate faces and also throw the shadows to the floor (versus hitting the backdrop or staging).
  • Ambient sources, such as windows and skylights, can add a nice sense of connection to the outside world. They can also cause many serious lighting challenges if they are located within dominant sight lines, such as directly behind the stage or platform. If windows and other natural light sources are used, then they must be color corrected. The color temperature of the sun is different at various times of the day, but 5600K is the video reference for daylight, while most lighting fixtures used indoors are around 3200K (there are numerous variations). Most people won’t notice a color mismatch, although the mismatch is more apparent when captured by a video camera and projected onto a screen. In addition, bulbs used in an ambient setting must create sufficient illumination to overpower ambient sources. The pulpit area may be well lit, but if other areas are brighter, the pulpit, or primary area used for speaking, appears darker.
  • Create lighting ambiences that fit your congregation. If the HOW is traditional, then clean, simple lighting is quite effective. If the HOW is a “seeker friendly” or younger demographic, then a concert look and feel might be warranted.

I believe that we should help HOWs to identify who they are and then help them select the lighting gear that will enable them to create ambiences that positively affect their audience. That is what I believe. Please tell me what you believe.

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