If someone were to ask what the most challenging environment for a lighting console was, one might be tempted to answer with Broadway shows, broadcast events, or one of those huge pop tours with dozens of dancers, just as many lighting fixtures, and absolutely massive stage backdrops bursting with lasers and motorized video displays.
But the real answer is less obvious: it’s often houses of worship. Why? Because there is a constant balancing act between having enough power to meet rider demands for the touring acts that come through while also providing an interface that is simple enough for the worship team to use for regular services. The ability to strike that balance is why southwest Georgia-based S&L Integrated Systems chose an Avolites Sapphire Touch for a recent upgrade at First Baptist Church in Thomasville, Georgia.
“When the church was renovated a couple of years ago, the lighting and sound systems were updated to accommodate small performances, as well as hosting professional touring acts,” says S&L’s Clay Byars. In 2015, S&L consulted on the design for worship spaces in the main sanctuary, high school, and children’s ministry areas.
“The lighting console had to be a proven workhorse and something that included industry-standard features and protocols,” he continues. “There are a wide variety of lighting fixtures that the console controls at the church, including LED ellipsoidals, movers, wash lights, and some conventional lighting fixtures, and the Sapphire manages all of their functions extremely well.”
With its 45 motorized, programmable faders and dual 15.6-inch touch screens, the Sapphire Touch has enough control for even the most demanding lighting director who may use the rig with a touring act, but the ease of programming and saving scenes means it’s also accessible for worship teams that may not have a super-technical background in terms of lighting. It’s even decipherable for musicians.
FBC’s worship leader, Jeremiah Spencer, is a great case in point. “I’m a musician and the worship leader, not a lighting guy, but I’ve been able to quickly learn how to program and run the console,” he says. “Having used it for a while now, I love the flexibility it offers.”
FBC Thomasville offers what may be the perfect case study for churches, with both a long and storied history as well as a need to stay on top of the production technology that has become common in the evangelical world. Founded in 1849, the church has been a fixture in the community for generations and has to balance the expectations of worshipers whose extended families may have been attending services there for a century or more with the demands of touring artists that are increasingly making FBC Thomasville a stop on their itineraries.
“The Sapphire Touch was selected for First Baptist Church, Thomasville for the tremendous flexibility it provides,” Byars adds. “In addition to regular services and performances by touring acts, the church has an annual youth event called DNOW that brings in kids from Thomasville and other surrounding communities to worship, serve, and grow in their relationships with God.”
The DNOW event is a weekend-long youth retreat that involves FBC Thomasville as a venue in conjunction with a number of other Thomas County houses of worship. “Friday and Saturday nights, the students gather in the main sanctuary for a worship experience that engages them visually and sonically,” Byars says. “In the past, S&L supplied our own Avolites console for the event on a rental basis. The Sapphire Touch is both intuitive to use for volunteer staff and flexible for professionals.” When the FBC ministry team decided it was time to modernize its in-house lighting and audio systems, both Avolites and the Sapphire Touch were the obvious choice, according to Byars.
“The consoles are well-built, and the manufacturer works closely with our technicians to support and maintain them. S&L and First Baptist Church have had a longstanding relationship since 1999. During this time, S&L has supported the AV needs of the church and provided support for events like DNOW. The worship team also consults with S&L on other AV-related projects. Just like our long and fruitful relationship with FBC, Avolites has been a longtime and reliable partner for S&L. We’re happy to bring these two partnerships together with the installation of the Sapphire Touch at the FBC Thomasville campus.”