Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: June 2008 (Page 1 of 2)

New Equipment Decision Grid

As the Tech Arts Director of a fairly good-sized church, I purchase a lot of gear. All kinds of gear really; sound, lighting, video, computers, presentation, software, even (perhaps especially) cables and connectors. Though we’re a big church, my budget is small, so every dollar has to count. For that reason, I’m pretty deliberate about the things I buy. I run every purchase through a grid to make sure it will do what I want, and give us maximum value for our dollars. 

I’m somewhat of a Maven (as described by Gladwell in The Tipping Point), so I’m often asked by other people what they should buy. I get calls and e-mails all the time asking, “What’s the best X,” or, “Which Y should I buy?” Most of the time, my answer is, “It depends.” And it really does. Rarely is there a single “best” choice in any given category. Often times, there are quite a few good choices. Which one to buy comes down to which is the best piece of gear that will accomplish your goal and remain affordable. 

Since we’re in a period of rapid technology change at Upper Room and CPC, I’m buying a lot of stuff. We’re looking at everything from new DIs to a entirely new IT infrastructure for Upper Room (XServe anyone?). But before I place the order, here are some questions I ask.

What Am I Trying To Accomplish?

It seems like a simple question, and it’s easy to over simplify. For example, we’re looking at setting up a new server for UR. But what kind of server? It’s easy to say, “Set up a server,” but unless we get really specific, we could easily buy more or less than what we need. So we’re asking questions like: Do we want our own mail server (or stay with Google)? Do we need file serving or just centralized backup? What about the ability to share calendars? How do we deal with our mixed OS environment? 

As you can see, the more granular we can get, the better picture we’ll have of what we need. The same questions come about with simple things like DIs. Do we need absolute signal purity, or just better than what we have? What instrument are we dealing with? The more answers you have the better decision you’ll make.

Is It Scaleable?

By scaleable I mean, “Can we grow with this?” I hate spending money twice. I don’t like buying interim solutions because it’s all we can afford now, then ditching it and buying something else later. So when I look at a server, or a backup system or a DI, I consider it’s lifespan. How long can we use this? When do we outgrow it? When we make a significant change in our ministry, is this still useful?

How Does This New Gear Fit Into Existing Gear, and Future Plans?

This concept is hitting home right now with our server, and with wireless gear. While I’m considering buying new IEMs, I’m also looking at going Aviom. Our band has been asking for it, and it might make sense to do that instead of spending a ton of cash on wireless gear. When making big decisions, it pays to look down the road a piece.

What Impact With This Have On Other Ministry Areas?

I may think that Leopard Server’s new calendaring features are super-cool, but what if it makes for a complete change of workflow for your lead pastor and his assistant? Are they OK with that? Do they even want that? Mixing the band would be so much easier in our room with a set of Roland V-Drums, but I’m not sure if I’d have the support of our worship leaders if I just went out and bought some. Switching to ProPresenter has been a huge benefit for my workflow, but it is problematic for the way CPC does their graphics, so I needed to figure out how to keep both systems in place for the time being. As one of my professors in college often said, “Think it through.”

What Is My Budget?

Sometimes we can afford top-of-the-line. Most times we can’t. So it’s important to figure out what the budget is, and what you can find in that range. We’re looking at picking up some new DIs as I said. While I’d love to just order six JDIs, if I do that, I have to give up other stuff we need. So we may be better off with one or two JDIs and some other ProDIs. Sound quality will still go up, and we won’t spend the entire budget. 

Those are some basic questions I run through each time. I’ve also found it often  pays to ask other people. Just in the last week, I’ve seen two people post a question on Twitter regarding Entourage or Apple Mail. When I’m up against a IT system question, I have a few people I can call for advice. I read a bunch of blogs and see what others are using, and now that I’m deciding about wireless, I’m emailing other tech directors for their opinion. It doesn’t mean I blindly follow advice, however, because what works for them may not be the right solution for us. Still, it’s good to know other’s experiences. They may have some insight on a piece of gear that I missed in my research. More info=better decision. 

It’s also a great idea, whenever possible, to try it out if you can. My local Sennheiser rep just dropped of a Pelican case full of G2 wireless gear last week. We’ll be playing with it more this week and weighing our results into the equation. On bigger purchases, you should be able to get demo (or at least rental gear) pretty easily. If not, check our your vendor’s return policy. Don’t get stuck with gear you’re not happy with.

I’m not sure this is an exhaustive decision grid, but it might give some of you some ideas on how to make more effective purchases. Happy shopping!

Raising Your Credibility Score Pt. 2

Picking up from where we left off yesterday, let’s figure out how to raise your credibility score. Following even a few of these ideas will go a long way in making your life easier at FOH. The worship leader and band will respect you more and it may even make you more popular with the ladies (or maybe not…).

Let’s consider a few specific things that you can do to raise your credibility score.

Always be the first one there. If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late. Being there early gives you the chance to pre-set the stage, and get as much wired ahead of time as possible. Doing this will make sure the musicians aren’t waiting around for you to get ready. No one likes having their time wasted, and seeing you prepared and ready for them will deposit some valuable currency in your bank (I’m speaking metaphorically here…).

Strive to be a communicator. Being a FOH engineer is a lot more than just mixing. You need to be able to speak the language of musicians, worship leaders and even administrators. If you try to tell church leadership that the reason the sound is bad is because “the Rev 60 time is like, 3.5 seconds, and the mains are behind the front fills by 45 milliseconds and the subs are out of phase with respect to the mains,” you’re likely to encounter a glaze thicker than that on a Honeybaked ham. If the worship leader informs you that there will be a guitar solo 4 bars into the bridge and you think a bar is where the “sinners” are instead of at church and a bridge gets you across a body of water, you’re in deep weeds.

Sometimes, the best way to fix a musician’s monitor mix is to go up on stage and stand next to him (or her) and engage them, finding out what they are hearing and what they need to hear instead. As you listen to them talk, and to the mix, you should be able to figure out how to fix it. Sometimes simply the act of caring will solve the problem.

Be accountable—own your mistakes. Let’s get this out on the table right now: We all make mistakes. I’ve mixed hundreds of services and I still occasionally hit the wrong button and unmute the wrong channel. At the debrief, the worst thing you can do is pretend the pastor’s mic wasn’t on (because they will likely start fumbling for it when they realize they’re not on). The best response is to say, “Oh, that was totally my bad. Sorry about that.” That will pay huge dividends; especially when the pastor does walk on stage with their pack off.

Avoid making decisions that are driven purely by criticism. If you have a good mix going, don’t turn the guitar down just because someone walks up and says it’s too loud. Take pride in what you do. We are artists, just as much as everyone on stage is an artist. Listen to the criticism, but you don’t always have to react to it.

Develop into a detail-oriented pro. This is one of my favorites because I’m such a detail freak. Make up stage plots and input lists—ahead of time. Make sure the wireless gear is full of fresh batteries when everyone gets there. Pay attention to the way the worship leader likes their mic stand and set it that way every time. Take notes during rehearsal and hit your cues. Finally brining up the guitar just as he finishes his solo (because you forgot there was a solo and you couldn’t find the right fader fast enough) will not score points. Forgetting to open the video channel for the video roll is not a way to impress the video team (or anyone else). If you take what you’re are doing seriously, people will take you seriously.

Mix like a pro, listen like a fan. I’ve never thought quite in these terms before, but I’m indebted to Scovill for this phrase. Once you get your mix put together, go out in the house and listen. If you were a fan of this band, would you like the mix? Does it make you want to stand up and say “Yeah!” If not, get back to work. Of course, if the band isn’t very good… well, that’s another post.

So there you have a few ideas on how to raise your credibility score. Again props to Robert Scoville for the basic concept of this post. Thank you sir for sharing your wisdom…

Raising Your Credibility Score

This post is another in a series of articles that grew out of a breakout session at Willow Creek’s Arts Conference a few weeks ago. The session was Thriving at Front of House, and speakers included Robert Scovill, Chris Gille and Scott Ragsdale. I give Scovi credit in advance for much of the content herein. As usual, it will be interspersed with my thoughts and commentary.

I hear from younger sound guys (an occasionally older ones) that they don’t get no respect (with apologies to Mr. Dangerfield) from musicians, their pastor or the church leadership. Sometimes that’s due to ignorance or egos, but sometimes it’s because the engineer in question (brace yourself for some potentially hard words here) doesn’t deserve the respect he or she things is due. With the incendiary comments out of the way, let’s unpack that.

Scovill talked a lot about your “Credibility Score.” That looks a lot like credit score and it’s something you should take just as seriously. He talked about some guys who are consistently able to get gigs that they may not be the best qualified for simply because they built up such a reputation for being credible. Others manage to keep gigs they shouldn’t based strictly on talent because they are credible. Just like a credit score, you earn points for consistently being prepared and staying ahead of the game. The more you do that, the higher your score. Then when you need to speak truth into a situation, people will listen to you. If you come off like a know-it-all punk, well, you know the reaction.

Here’s the deal: We teach people how to treat us. It seems counter-intuitive, right? We all know that we like to be treated with respect. However, we often teach people that we are not worthy of respect because of the way we behave. If we are consistently late, or don’t fix problems quickly or are unprepared, others won’t take us seriously—mainly because we don’t take our own role seriously! You’ve heard it said, “God is in the details,” so why do we get so lax about doing sound in church because, “It’s only church?” This is entirely the wrong attitude! Our church gigs should be our best gigs because they’re for the King of Kings.

Texting when you should be mixing won’t help win points with the worship team. Making the band wait while you figure out which mic to plug into which channel won’t endear you to the band leader. Updating your Facebook status while the pastors mic is ringing will not set you up as a credible authority on live sound.

Now with this food for thought laid out there for feasting, tomorrow we’ll talk about specific ways we can raise our credibility score.

It’s Too Loud Pt. 2

OK, we’re back to discussing the age old question of loudness in the church. Just how loud is too loud? First, consider this: Volume should be relative to:

  • Attendance
  • Quality
  • Acousitcs
  • Worst Seat in the House
  • Visual Expression
  • Instrumentation
  • Context

That list is courtesy of Chris Gille of Willow Creek. Some of those items are fairly obvious. A lightly attended mid-week service probably doesn’t need to be as loud as a full-house Sunday morning. If the band is sub-par, turning them up won’t help (go ahead, ask me how I know this!). The acoustics of your room play a role, too. How does your room react do different levels, and different loading (the number of people and where they sit). You need to consider how loud (or soft) it is in the worst seat in the house. What type of visuals are happening, and are they served better by loud or soft? Consider instrumentation; a solo acoustic guitar ballad probably doesn’t need to be 104 dB. Finally the context. Is this a rockin’ praise set or a funeral? It makes a difference.

Now that we’ve thought about what affects how loud it should be, we should have a means of coming up with some sort of empirical  measurement of how loud it is. The easiest way to do that is with a Sound Pressure Level (SPL) meter. You can pick one up at Radio Shack for about $50. I suggest you start by placing the meter at FOH and paying attention to it for a few services. What kind of readings are you getting? How loud does it get? What does a soft song look like? Do this for a few weekends and you’ll have some data.

Next, you need to sit down with the church leadership and come up with some guidelines. Look at your data. If the consensus is that it was too loud for those weeks in question and you’re seeing peaks of 100 + dB, then you need to back it down. If it feels like it could go up, take it up. It may take a month or two to come up with a policy, but once you do, you then have an answer to give people who ask about it. 

It’s helpful to know what you should be measuring. The best setting for measuring music is C-weighted as it more closely approximates how we hear. However, there’s very little research being done with C-weighting, so Chris recommends that you use A-weighted, slow. That will give you an average over the last second or so of the level. There is a wealth of data using A-weighting (for example, the maximum allowable daily exposure for 95 dBA is 4 hours—did you know that?) 

The point of all this is to get to a place where when someone says it’s too loud, you can give an answer that will be supported by the leadership. And it will get to a place of consistency if you have multiple people mixing. Everyone knows the target ranges (for example, Willow runs their services between 85-95 dBA), and can mix appropriately. 

Once you work your way through this process, you will have the leadership on the same page and will know for sure if you are “too loud” or not. If you have someone chronically complaining about the level, you can eventually suggest that this might not be the church for them. Everyone has different tastes, and as we said earlier, we will never please everyone. Ever.

It’s Too Loud

“It’s too loud!” If you’ve spent any time at all behind a soundboard in a church, you’ve heard those words. Oddly, it’s not uncommon to also hear, “It’s too quiet,” in the same service. This was a topic that Robert Scovill hit on in the session, “Thriving at Front of House.”  What follows are some of my thoughts on the topic, some of Scovi’s and some of his thoughts with my commentary. But first, here’s something he said that I found absolutely fascinating.

“Mixing sound in church is one of the hardest jobs out there. Big-shot tour guys have it easy compared to church sound guys.” How could this be? Isn’t the professional touring world a tougher environment than the church, a place filled with grace and love? Uh, yeah. Again, if you’ve mixed in a church for more than a month, you know it’s really easy for grace and love to go out the window with the PA is turned on. Everyone’s a FOH engineer and self-professed expert. 

There’s no other position that everyone feels they have as much right to speak into than FOH. Few would ever tell a children’s worker how to handle a crying toddler, but just as few have a problem telling the sound guy that the guitar sounded terrible. At least in the touring world, they have system engineers, high tech equipment, a ton of experience and factory support, not to mention good musicians. But I digress.

The first thing Scovi said was this, “How you respond to that statement [It’s too loud] is absolutely critical.” It’s critical for a number of reasons. First, it’s important to know that you will never please everyone. Ever. Let’s just get that out of the way now. You don’t want to make an adjustment in your sound just because one person out of 500 or a 1,000 or 3,000 said it was too loud. We don’t want the inmates running the asylum. 

Second, you need to believe in what you are doing. That means you need to know how loud it actually is, what the church’s policy is toward loudness and how the room is responding. Just because an usher tells you it’s too loud doesn’t mean it actually is. On the other hand, if the Senior Pastor tells you it’s too loud, you might want to look into it. 

Third, you need to figure out what the person is really saying. Here are some possible interpretations to the phrase, “Its too loud.” (from Scovi)

  • “I would prefer a different style of music.”
  • “I don’t really like distorted guitar.”
  • “I don’t like the spectral balance of the PA system—especially where I’m seated.”
  • “The balance is out of whack—ie. one or two things are too loud.”

Depending on the circumstances it may be beneficial to delve into some followup questions to determine what the person is actually saying. If you’re in the middle of the praise set, perhaps the best thing you can do is say, “Thank you so much for telling me, I’ll look into it,” then follow up later. 

This is where it really helps to have a policy in place regarding volume. Tomorrow we’ll talk more about that; how to figure out what your volume levels should be, developing a policy and gaining the support of leadership.

Credibility Score

Tim Corder has written some thoughts gleaned from Robert Scovill at the Arts Conference last week. I was in the seminar with Tim when Scovi spoke, and these thoughts struck me as well. It was good to hear Scovi talk about it, and it’s good to be reminded of it. Check out the post here.

Willow Pictures

Well, the good news is I found my camera cable. Turns out that when I was getting ready to leave home, I was cleaning stuff up and put the cable for my little camera in the bag with my big camera thinking it went to the big camera. So alas, it stayed home while I went to Chicago. As it turns out, I didn’t take as many pictures as I thought I might. But here are some that turned out OK. Keep in mind, this is a small Lumix point and shoot, so the image quality is a little lower than my DSLR. Still it give you a good idea what things looked like. Click on any of the pictures for a larger version.


Atrium

The main lobby of the auditorium. The building is just beautiful and huge. Attendance was down a bit this year due some tough financial times for many churches.

The Main Stage

This is the main stage. The back wall is a flexible scrim that has been shaped into a grid pattern. It can be lit from the front (as this pic shows) or projected onto from behind. The “arms” are truss wrapped in a translucent poly and lit from within. The side walls are a diamond shaped scale-type thing bent along the short axis (and not round cymbal-like as earlier reported). The overall effect was great, and gave the lighting guys a lot of texture to light up. I understand it created some difficulties for the sound guys, though with regard to wireless.

Drum line

They had a drum line team come and start off the conference. It was a bit like Blast, but with no horns. I don’t know who they were, but they were very good. The lighting really starts to take effect now.

Worship Band

The worship team sounded just as good as they look. If you’ve never been to Willow, that giant screen on the side is an LED model that I understand is run at about 50% brightness because it’s just that bright. It’s 14 x 24 feet, and runs about 200,000 ANSI lumens (!!!) and runs in HD. I never did find out if they have upgraded their video to HD this year, but the images looked stunning. Does anyone know?

Kendall Payne

This was my favorite lighting of the week. The color palate was stunning. This is Kendall Payne, a singer-songwriter I’ve never heard of but who will be added to my iPod soon. She’s really good, and funny, and thoughtful. A triple-threat. 

Kendall Payne

This light cue wins the “Church Tech Arts Award For Best Light Cue” award. Really. It was my favorite of the weekend. Great job, guys! Sorry it’s a little blurry, I had to slow the shutter down to get the beams of light to expose properly. You get the idea…

So there you go. A quick photo recap of what it looked like. Don’t you just feel like you were there now?

Arise Day 3–Session 1

The morning started off with the very talented and very funny Kendall Payne. A gifted musician and songwriter, she not only made us laugh, but made us think. I’ve never heard of her before, but I will be looking to add some of her music to my iPod. She’s that good.

Next up was Dr. Richard Allen Farmer. Dr. Farmer is a real renaissance man. I knew he was cool when we walked up on stage with his MacBook Pro and used that for notes. A musician, speaker, pastor, pilot and a whole bunch more. He led us on a tour inside the mind of the artist. I always really enjoy these types of talks because it reminds me that I’m not crazy. Here are some of the notes I took. These are pretty raw, and will likely merit more unpacking as I get home and process. This is one session I would recommend buying if you weren’t here. I may buy it… and I was here.

  • Artists are different. Let’s take a tour inside the artist’s head. We think differently, we act differently, we have different assumptions.
  • Consider daVinci. He wouldn’t take “yes” for an answer. He had insatiable curiosity. He asked questions.
  • We want to know how things work, why things are the way they are. We’re curious about history, about current events, about all sorts of things. This is what makes us annoying to other people. We keep pushing the edges, we push the limits, we push buttons, we push anything. We keep asking why or why not?
  • The artist welcomes friction. We enjoy putting disparate pieces together and forcing things together that don’t normally go together.
  • When it comes to worship styles, the problem is not with anyone style, but with the reluctance for people to rub up against a multiplicity of styles.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, the people whom we serve are not stupid. They are able to go with you. They like to be led.
  • We should want always to be able to speak, and be able to articulate what we have turned out in our art. But it takes work. It’s hard work. People don’t always see the hard work.
  • Woe to the artist that is voluntarily inarticulate. Christ was called the Word of God. Apparently there is something important about words.
  • Something else we might see in an artist’s head is a cloud, a vapor, a mystery. Artists are laboring to be articulate and speechless at the same time. Sometimes, we want to be made speechless. We want to be overwhelmed by the mystery of our faith. To be lost in wonder, love and praise.

There was a lot more there, but that gives you a flavor. I’m pretty much a cheapskate most of the time, but I will be picking this talk up to listen to again.

During the break I talked to the ProPresenter guys for a bit and learned a little more of the plans for the next round of updates. I’ll write more about that later. Some good stuff coming. I thought the next session started at 11:30, but I guess it’s actually 11:00 since the band is on stage rocking the house. So I’d better go!

Arise Day 2—Breakout Sessions

Today was a full day. Four breakout sessions full of good information and lots of notes. Not all of the information was directly applicable to me, but there was no shortage of good stuff. I learned something in each session, and have several things I want to go back an implement. For me, that’s the measure of success for a breakout; did I learn something that will change what I do at my church. Honestly, there were so many good ideas it will take some time to sift through it all and develop a priority list.
As I said, I had four breakouts today. Rather than blindly post all of my notes (which, out of context, may make no sense at all), I’m going to pull out some key thoughts or quotes that I found especially helpful or insightful. At some future point, I may clean up my notes and put them all up here. Maybe someday when I’m out of idea for posts…
Session 1–Audio System Design
This a panel discussion led by TC Furlong included John Monitto of Meyer Sound, Craig Jannssen of Acoustic Dimmensions and Jeff Pelletier & Chris Gille of Willow Creek.
Here are my favorite bits.
  • When it comes to audio system design, what are the priorities? What is important to you? It’s not about bragging rights, or who can spend the most money. It’s about making sure you can fulfill the mission of the church.
  • Need to define who we are as a church. Are we highly presentational, or is teaching the most important thing? Or we may highly value community. Design the space to accomplish the goals which are defined by who we are.
  • When designing a system, many churches think they have someone who really knows there stuff. But that person may not really have the skills to design an entire system. They may just know more than everyone else (which collectively is next to nothing).
  • Next make sure you have someone who will help you put in good infrastructure. You can’t go back and put more conduit in the slab. You can’ t put more steel in the roof. Once the building is built, you’ve defined your experience for the next 50 years. [editorial: AMEN brothers! I’ve said this to every church I’ve ever talked to that was thinking about building or renovating a space. Very few actually do this, however, much to their own peril]
  • Acoustics are the primary infrastructure that you need to deal with. The reflections and acoustics in the room will be your enemy or your friend, depending on how the room is designed.
  • Line Arrays are not the be-all end-all. They are a tool to use for geometry. If you need to send sound a long ways coherently, the line array is a good choice. [editorial: Again, Amen. If one more person tells me we need to install a line array at CPC I’m going to throw up. Our maximum throw from speaker to the back row is like 40 feet for crying out loud]

Session 2–Thriving at Front of House

 Again, another panel discussion, this time led by the legendary Robert Scovill. Also at the table were Chris Gille & Scott Ragsdale of Willow. I have a lot more from this, but other points will take more unpacking.

 

  • “Mixing sound in church is one of the hardest job out there. Big-shot tour guys have it easy compared to church sound guys.” Robert Scovill
  • Possible interpretations for “It’s too loud.”
    • “I would prefer a different style of music.”
    • “I don’t really like distorted guitar.”
    • “I don’t like the spectral balance of the PA system—especially where I am seated.”
    • “The balances are out of whack; ie. one or two things are too loud.”
  • Quick tip: Great way to help get a sound check going forward is to start with the vocals on in the PA. When they pick up the mic and start talking, they hear themselves and know things are working. It also helps you build a good mix, starting with the vocals instead of the music.
  • The difference between greatness and mediocrity is not measured by the quality of tools at your disposal but rather in the quality of your approach.
  • People think mixing is a technical skill, while it is technical, it’s mainly a musical skill
  • Don’t get into the trap of going to another church and ask, Why can’t we be like that? Simple, we are not that church
Session 3–How to Keep a Volunteer for Life
Dennis Choy of North Coast Church in Vista, CA led this session. Dennis oversees some 65 volunteers and coordinates 18 services each weekend. Yeah, that was my reaction, too.
Basic Principles for Training & Maintaining Volunteers
  • Communicate to them (need to have clear expectations of what they are going to do for you. job descriptions
  • Cast vision. It’s important that the team know where things are going.
  • Encourage. Encouragement works best when it’s done regularly. Consistent encouragement goes a lot further than you know. The don’t want to be on stage, they really just need a good pat on the back. Get the teaching pastors to go over and say hi and thanks to the volunteers. Even send a note from the sr pastor. Regular notes from me is also a good idea.
  • Training. So key. It’s so unfair to bring a volunteer in and expect them to do a job that they are not well-trained on.
Keys to Retaining Volunteers
  • Prescreen them
  • Simplify things for them
  • Fire them (this will take some explaining at some point)
  • Inside information for them
  • Invest in them
  • Fix it for them
  • Empower them
  • Feed them (physically as well as spiritually)
There is a lot there in those bullets, much of which warrants additional explanation. I’ll do that eventually.
Session 4–RF Immunity in a HD World
Featuring Nathan Miller and Mark Gilbert of Willow Creek. Much of this is shorthand, so I’ll come back to this as well in future articles.
RF Dropouts
  • Loss of signal due to destructive interference.
  • Energy reflected off “big” metal objects cancel the main signal.
  • Set design for conference, a good “bad” example
  • Multipath is the issue
Avoiding Dropouts
  • Diversity receivers
  • Keep unnecessary metal objects around the antennas to a minimum
  • Test it! Walk around with the units
  • Positioning Antenna
  • Line of sight (overhead)
    • Different Orientation (angles)
    • Some distance between them
    • Combining transmitting antennas from IEMs—same path for main and interfering signals
  • Directional antennas for IEMs
Once again we have a ton of information that may not make sense without some context. Still, it’s an idea of how much information I tried to pack into my brain today. It will take a few days to sort it out. That will have to wait, however as it’s almost Friday… and Sunday’s comin’!

Arise Sessions 2 & 3

Session 2 was Gilles Ste-Croix of Cirque. He told the fascinating story of how Cirque was started as street performers and has grown into an organization of 4,000 people with 18 (I think) permanent shows all over the world. Probably the thing that made most people jealous is that they spend between 2-3 years creating a show. As Nancy pointed out, we have 6 days. Still, very cool stuff.

Nancy interviewed Brian McClaren for the final session of the day. I’ve been reading his book, Everything Must Change, of late, so much of what he talked about has already been rattling around in my head. As they spoke, some very interesting and provocative videos were shown. A woman from the community here shared her story of interacting with poverty in the world. It was an excellent example of how we can use the arts to make a difference. I typed as many notes as I could, as fast as I could. Here they are, as I wrote them–not proofed or edited yet. 

  • The leading of the Holy Spirit…otherwise known as winging it. Of course the Holy Spirit is known as a dove, so there’s something there…
  • The impetus of the book–meeting at a camp when he was unprepared. He asked the kids what issues they were dealing with. There was a list of religious issues (KJV, drums in church, can women teach, etc.). Then there was the list of global problems (extinction of species, overpopulation, war, etc.). The thing he found troubling is that there was no overlap between those two lists. The church list had nothing in common with the world list.
  • When looking at the lists, Shane Claiborne says, “God must be up in heaven saying, ‘Gee if the church won’t get involved, then the Rock Starts will cry out…”
  • He identified three major crisis we face right now.
  • The crisis of the planet–everything we do is draining resources out of the planet, and putting waste back.
  • The crisis of poverty–the gap between rich and poor is widening, and when that happens, you can expect problems. As Bono has said, “Where you live should not determine if you live.”
  • The crisis of peace–when the have-nots start trying to get what the haves have, the haves start protecting not giving. As the gap between rich and poor grows, every other issue becomes more intense.
  • The stories we live by are sending us in a wrong direction. This is where art become so important. Art can drive our framing stories.
  • Four common framing stories:
    • Domination: if only we were in charge
    • Revolution: if only they weren’t in charge
    • Scapegoating: they are the ones who are causing our troubles
    • Isolation: we need to get away from the
  • Many of our churches have been taught that God wants the world to get worse and worse so it will be over sooner. Status Quo Christianity allows us to live in our safe bubble with our relationship w/ Jesus and ignore the problems so prevalent in the rest of the world. 
  • Check out the verse in Deut. that Jesus quotes when He says, “The poor you will have with you always.” He’s not saying it’s justified.
  • A lot of us assume that the purpose of the Bible is to get our souls into heaven when we die. But what if the centerpiece of Jesus’ message was not a fire escape, but the Kingdom of God. Do we have it reversed? What if it’s not about us going to heaven, but God’s kingdom coming to earth?
  • Our theological systems are perfectly rendered to get the results we are now getting.
  • Saved doesn’t simply mean saved from eternal death, it also means saved from wasting your life on trivial things. We can’t make an either/or out of something that is supposed to be a both/and.
  • The Church is not the end user of the Gospel. We receive it so we can give it away.
  • When Jesus says, “Repent and believe,” He’s saying, “Stop living by those old framing stories.” 
  • Church should not be a place where we draw people out of the world and get them playing intramural sports. Church should be a place where we teach people to live the life of Jesus, living in the new framing stories. 
  • We have to be careful to not let our theology become captive to any political ideology. There’s a sense that God cares about spirits and souls, but not about bodies. And that’s wrong. Artists are ones who can relate to the body.
  • How can artists, pastors and leaders make a difference?
  • Leading the church into integral worship: A higher view of a bigger God.
    • Humanize the other. The arts can be a vehicle to put a human face to the forgotten others.
    • Humanize ourselves. Stirring humane emotion, inconvenient thought, and merciful action.
    • Revaluing creation. When we sign songs that value creation, we bring people into awareness that creating is God’s artwork.
    • Revaluing relationships and connectedness. Everything is a relative, sin breaks connections in our relationships, and the arts can help us see that.
  • We can’t make poverty history until we make poverty personal.
  • As artists, we have been making the church better because of our art. Now that the church is getting better, perhaps the church will wake up and see that God’s vision for the church is to make the world better because of the church. 
  • What really makes the world stand up and take notice is how we love each other. Can the church become a place where we are known for loving the poor, and known for what we do bring mercy & justice to the world?

Like I said, it’s a bit rough, but there is some good content there. So now I have the night off. I might head off to find some food. There’s a cafe right across from me and something smells really good. 

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