Many houses of worship do much more than hold services in a single space. Increasingly, they are using technology to spread the message around their premises and out into the wider world. Steve Montgomery reports.
AV technology is reaching into every aspect of our lives, and despite their ancient traditions, religious institutions are no exception. Technology is being embraced by all faiths in all corners of the world. Nowadays even the smallest house of worship has a projector replacing printed books and pamphlets, with hymns and prayers beamed onto screens. The largest have full-blown video production and transmission systems. Many are capable of simultaneously showing services in separate rooms and buildings and can stream live and recorded services to the web.
“We’re definitely seeing a greater level of interest in our AV solutions from houses of worship,” says Luke Mahler-Hausen, AV and live business development manager, Blackmagic Design. “Whether it’s bringing a congregation together, or spreading the message beyond four walls, more and more of them now understand the importance of good-quality AV systems. Depending on the size and scale of the organisation, systems can range from small live production units to full staging set-ups, with theatrical lighting and projection systems complementing traditional audio and video elements.”
This is a global trend, he says: “The ‘megachurch’ market is by no means limited to the US. In fact, we are seeing more and more churches and mosques investing in state-of-the-art purpose-built facilities, and good AV systems are a key element. Many houses of worship, particularly those that have built their own bespoke facilities, want the ability to present video in several areas simultaneously; for example, some of the congregation may be taking part in services from family rooms, while the rest of the group worship in the main auditorium. Live streaming and producing shorter clips from a service for online audiences is certainly becoming more popular.
“A good example is LINC Church in Salt Rock, South Africa, which uses video extensively in its services. As well as producing live content for the main auditorium, the AV team also extracts the pastor’s sermon and cuts together a programme incorporating sermon notes and prayer text that they then stream. A volunteer team uses ATEM Production Studio 4K and Smart Videohub 20x20 to record live video, insert pre-recorded content and distribute to community and campus rooms around the campus.”
Simon Wilkes, media director, LINC Church, comments: “Video has always been an important medium for us, even in the church’s beginning, when we realised producing video for our website got our message across far more easily than written articles.”
As well as capturing the pastor’s sermon, the team of volunteers adds prerecorded content, including weekly notices and an immersive video which prepares the congregation for communal prayer. He adds: “Not only has [our AV solution] brought our congregation closer together during services, it has also given us a global profile, and that has led to us sharing our insights with other churches.”
John Ellis, regional sales manager of the systems group at Shure Distribution, agrees: “While US churches are getting larger and installing ever-more fantastic systems, elsewhere, especially in Europe and the Far East, satellite churches receive webcast services for local presentation.” This is, he says, not without problems: “Transmission often requires good network access which is not always the case. So some houses of worship resort to recording services and replaying them one week later.”