Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Category: Gatherings

The Porch

Those of you that follow me on Twitter probably remember that a few weeks ago someone on the creative team had the idea that we should have a porch in church for one weekend. It actually makes more sense than it sounds at first; our theme for the weekend was The Front Porch: Practicing Hospitality. It was part of a series called Renovation: Turning Our House Into A Home. We’ve been talking about different “rooms” in a house and using that as a jump-off point for a given theme.

Anyway, we thought it would be good to have a porch as a visual metaphor for what we were talking about. The trick was that it had to actually support people. And be repurposed later. My initial “in my head” design was going to be really simple. A quick 1×4 deck skinned in luan, punch some 4×4’s through to raise it up and make into posts for railings. Simple and easy.

Then they said that they wanted people to be able to come up on the porch and write on it. They also wanted to re-use the deck portion of it as a teaching platform down the road. That made things a little more complicated. First, the “legs” needed to be removable from the decks. Second, the whole thing needed to support perhaps half a dozen people per section. Third, the entire assembly could not rack and collapse. And it needed to look like a porch.

Off I went to Google SketchUp. First off, I should note that if you haven’t played in SketchUp, you really should. It’s free after all, and it’s a great way to design things in 3-D. I’ve been playing with it for a few months now, and really like it. It has some quirks, but hey, it’s free. I’ll also point out that after doing the design, cut list and material list, we went to Home Depot and bought material. When all was said and done, we had an incredibly small pile of cut-offs, 1 extra 2×4 (which I bought just in case) and didn’t have to make a single trip back for more material. There’s some real benefit to planning ahead.

Here’s what the framing looked like:

Everything was designed to be easily assembled and disassembled. click to enlarge Everything was designed to be easily assembled and disassembled. click to enlargeThere are 4 “deck” sections, assembled out of 2×4’s, glued and nailed together. I then used construction adhesive and screws to secure 3/4″ plywood to the framing. That gives me a 4 1/4″ high “platform” once they’re repurposed. Perfect. The legs were built from 4×4 douglas fir posts, 2×6 girders and 2×4 diagonal bracing. Because the entire thing needed to come apart afterward for storage, I used various angles and plates from Simpson Strong-Tie. Great stuff that. I hand-cut the stair stringers out of a 2×10, and used 2×10’s for the treads. This was the finished plan.

What it was supposed to look like. click to enlarge What it was supposed to look like. click to enlargeThe railing is just 2×4’s and 2×2’s glued and nailed together. I used PL Premium construction adhesive for everything because I wanted it to resist racking and hold together if someone leaned up against it. The railing is designed to meet code, just because I’m a geek.

So those were the plans. As often happens, the best laid plans run into a small snag. When we started setting platforms in place, it became clear we didn’t have quite the run length in the room we thought we did. We were about 4′ short, in fact. Someone suggested turning one of the platforms 90 degrees and running the stairs off the end. We tried it and it worked like a charm.

I don't know who the guy is, but I could not get him to stop walking back and forth in front of the porch. click to enlarge I don’t know who the guy is, but I could not get him to stop walking back and forth in front of the porch. click to enlargeWe set rocking chairs there to make it more porch-like. In this design, it worked exceptionally well. The short ell created by turning a platform gave people a little more room to move around each other, and gave us a nice corner to set a rocking chair. Here’s what it looked like during a service.

Even with dozens of people on it, the porch didn't move an inch. click to enlarge Even with a dozen people on it, the porch didn’t move an inch. click to enlargeEveryone was quite pleased with the final result. It took a couple of long days to build and paint, and we had some great volunteers come in to help with it. And now we have a few teaching platforms that will make it easier for people in the back of the room to see the teacher. It’s what we call a win-win-win.

Taking Flight With Creatitivity

A few weeks ago, Abingdon Press sent me this book to read. First of all, I was pretty jazzed that they would send me the book; apparently I meet the criteria of being a well-known enough blog now–which is really cool. I was also excited because I love to read, and I’m always game for a free book.

While not every book I read bears mention in this blog, this one does. The reason is simple; it’s a good book worthy of your time. The full title of the book is Taking Flight With Creativity: Worship Design Teams that Work. It’s an appropriate title because the authors, Len Wilson and Jason Moore (founders of Midnight Oil Productions) do an excellent job of describing exactly how a worship design team should be structured, what they should do and what they should not do. They leave plenty of room for customizing the process to work in your church while still giving useful guidelines for getting started.

Here are a few quotes I found interesting:

People in our time still listen best when spoken to in a familiar language. That language changes over time, and those in ministry must change with it.

Teams that work allow empowerment, because creative people won’t hang around an environment where they are told, explicitly or implicitly, what to do.

Good communication and plenty of lead time on major changes will ease the pressure and frustration felt by the tech director.

It is of the utmost importance to remember that what we do in worship design teams is possibly the most important thing we’ll do in life.

The authors use the metaphor of the first flight at Kitty Hawk as a vehicle for moving the book forward. It’s a stretch at times, but a useful metaphor nonetheless. The first section of the book, “Are we meant to fly? Discovering a strategic approach to worship,” talks about the need for a design team in the first place. This is one area where a lot of churches need to grow.

The second section, “Building the areoplane: Putting the worship design team together,” outlines the cast of characters you’ll need for a good design team. Most the people you’d expect should be there, pastor, worship leader, tech director, but there are a few surprises.

The third section, “Taking flight: Achieving Koinonia,” walks the reader through the process a creative team should take. From first becoming a small group to the weekly decision list and brainstorming, the authors take the reader behind into the planning room and let us observe.

The book wraps up with a final section on the maintenance and troubleshooting of a design team.

Having been on several design teams, I was very encouraged by this book. I could see many areas were we’ve done things well, and some areas where we need to improve. If you don’t currently have a worship design team at your church, or do but it’s not functioning well, give this book a read. It’s not long, and you could easily finish it in a few evenings if you were motivated. Most importantly, it’s well-written and engaging, traits that are often missing in books in this category.

Audience Participation

This weekend we got to use technology in a pretty cool way to engage with our congregation. One of the things Upper Room is known for is our experiential style of worship. Almost every week, we have some type of activity that allows the congregation to engage in the teaching they have just heard. Sometimes it’s reflective, other times it’s very active. We’ve put giant calendars on stage and asked people to commit to having a difficult conversation by a certain date. We’ve asked people to write on walls, pick up stones with a new name, even bring items in to sell on ebay to raise money for Heal Africa. This week was about celebrating our experiential nature.

We set 3 laptops up around our worship space. During the message, we encouraged people to go to a laptop and “blog” about a particular experiential that impacted their lives. Our web guru, also a Mike, designed a simple form on our web site that would take their entries and pass it to a database on the server via php. The form had a prompt question, and a text box sized to limit the length of the entries (we weren’t looking for a novella, just a few thoughts).

Once the person hit submit, they received a confirmation that their message was sent, and 5 seconds later, the page refreshed (Mike B.–you’re good!). Our Creative Director, Craig, sat in the service with his laptop checking the database via our website admin page (which was also custom designed in large part by Mike B.). As the posts came in, he chose the posts that fit the topic the most closely, and instant messaged them to me via Google Chat. I then took the copy and pasted it into a Keynote presentation. I had build at template that would display the words using the typewriter effect. I adjusted the timing based on a simple 3.5 seconds per line timing that we determined was about the right speed.

During the message, I was receiving the IMs and building the Keynote presentation (which actually resided on our iMac running ProPresenter), while our presentation tech followed our pastor with sermon slides in ProPresenter. Near the end of the message, I saved the Keynote and closed it. During the prayer, we took all lights to black, went to black in ProPresenter and flipped to Keynote. The first slide was black there, too, so the change was seamless if anyone was peeking. We then ran the “blog posts” from Keynote in order to take advantage of the typewriter effect.

At the end of this section, we went back to black, returned to ProPresenter and wrapped up the evening. It was pretty neat to see how people have been impacted by the experientials, and very cool to have their comments on the screen just minutes after they wrote them. Of course, we couldn’t have pulled it off were it not for our great Tech Team (props to Jeff, Ronica, Erik & Les). They truly rocked it tonight and brought their A-game. I’ve always said that one of my goals is to work myself out of a job in the tech booth. I love seeing volunteers so good at what they do that I can concentrate on other activities while they make the service happen with very little input from me. And I love being able to use technology to engage with our congregation in creative ways. That’s what we did this weekend… how about you?

When Technology Works…And When It Doesn’t

I’m taking a day off from talking about our discussion of The Matrix because I want to recount to you a harrowing tale of large files, downloads and a crazy, video-laden service that almost wasn’t.

This summer, Upper Room sent 11 teams across the country and across the globe for missional experiences. For four of those teams, we had a community member go along with a video camera to capture the story of the trip. The idea was that each videographer would return from the trip and create a video of that trip. Those videos would be shown on our Missions Sunday–four trip videos and a fifth overview of all the trips. This past Sunday was that night. It all sounded like a good plan. But, as so often happens, the best laid plans are, well, imperfect.

Because our community draws from all over the place, it’s not always easy to have people just drop stuff off at the church. So all last week, I was using iChat to transfer preview copies of the videos. iChat works great, but when you’re dealing with video files ranging in size between 200 MB and 1 Gig, it does take time.

After all the suggested changes had been made it was time to get the final videos. Saturday afternoon, the first file came in–200 MB from an editor in California. The overview video was done. Later that night I fired up a 1 Gig transfer from one team member. Shortly thereafter, I launched another 450 MB transfer. I knew I had bandwidth to spare and the limiting factor would be the other two’s upload speeds. 

At Midnight, I went to bed, safe in the knowledge that I had 1 video on my computer, another almost done and the third more than half transferred, and the other two would be arriving on CD at church on Sunday. When I got up at 9:30 (we meet at night, remember), I checked the file transfer. The 1 Gig finished up fine. The 450 (the slower of the two links) failed. Earlier in the week, when we transferred this file, it took over 8 hours. It was now 9:30 AM, and our first service starts at 5 PM. Being quick with math, I knew this could be a problem. 

I looked over the log and discovered that for some reason the transfer rate of the failed file was much faster this time than last, so there was hope that we could get it here in time. There were a few problems, however. I normally get to church about noon. There was no way I could fire up a transfer at 9:30 and expect it to be done before I had to leave. I couldn’t be late as we had a major setup to pull off. And I couldn’t start the transfer at home, the sleep my laptop and pick up where we left off when I got to work. And I had just gotten up, so I couldn’t even run in early and get it started. What to do?

I chose to lean into technology. I shot off a text to the new CPC tech director (who I knew would be near our tech booth) and asked him to fire up the iMac in the booth (CPC still uses the PC). I sent a text to the videographer (who was now back at college) and told her we needed to re-start the transfer. I used a web-service called LogMeIn to remote into my iMac and set up my AIM account in iChat (I had configured the iMac for remote control with LogMeIn before I went on vacation earlier this summer). I logged off AIM on my laptop and logged in on the iMac (via remote control). Once I woke up the videographer (she’s a college student after all…), we re-started the transfer. Now I was free to finish getting ready and head in at my normal time. I kept apprised of the progress in real-time using LogMeIn.

I also Google-chatted with my creative director to keep him posted of what was happening. Thankfully, the connection was even faster and by 2:20, we had the file on the iMac. The other 2 videos came in on CD, and we loaded all 5 into ProPresenter. Rehearsal went smoothly, and we worked out a few cuing bugs. We had a total of 5 projectors in the sanctuary. We built a 32’x8′ wall on stage and projected the same graphic background 3 times across that. We ran the videos on our two main screens. With my newly remodeled  tech booth, I was able to address the stage projectors and the main projectors independently. 

click to enlarge

In the end, it looked great and everything ran very smoothly. While I was busy running around like crazy getting the wall and 3 projectors set up (with full RGBHV signals to each of them), my team dove in and did their jobs well. We hit all our marks and even finished up rehearsal early. The message of the trips was powerful, and it will be exciting to see what God does in our midst over the coming year. Next Sunday we’ll be talking about the future of Upper Room, and what we thing God has in store for us. It will be really exciting, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Tomorrow we’ll return to our regularly scheduled series on the Matrix. Thanks for reading.

Outdoor Worship

Upper Room has had a tradition for the last seven years of taking our worship gatherings outdoors several times each summer. This year is no exception. We have the entire month of August slated for outdoor worship, though for the first time ever, the first weekend in August was moved indoors due to threatening weather. Thankfully for me, I was on vacation at the time. And the following week. This past weekend however, I was there and ready to roll.

Now, you have to know that since even before I was hired, everyone’s been telling me how great outdoor worship is from a tech standpoint, because we hire in a sound company to do the sound. So in theory, we don’t have to do anything. As it turns out, I think I worked harder this Sunday than I have since I got here. I thought I left the roadie life behind when I took this cushy church gig. Not so, apparently. I was told, “Yeah, the sound co just needs a few guys to help unload the truck…it’s a few cases and takes like, 10 minutes.” Right. And the few guys means me, our volunteer producer and her boyfriend. And the few cases was closer to 30. And to keep on schedule, I helped hang the rig and set the stage.

This all sounds like I’m complaining, and I’m really not. It was a lot of fun, the guys from the sound co (Reach Communications) Dan & Matt were super-cool and it was a lot of teamwork. And it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to get down and dirty with setting up a pretty good sized rig, so I enjoyed it.

For the sound geeks in the audience, here’s a partial breakdown of the gear on hand.

  • FOH: Yamaha M7-CL 48
  • Drive Rack: Nexo Dolby Lake Contour 2×6 processors (2)
  • Amps: Yamaha/Nexo w/ built in processing (didn’t catch the model)
  • Main Arrays: Nexo GEO S8, 12 per side
  • Subs: Nexo Alpha S2, 2 per side
  • IEMs: Sennheiser G2 driven by an Aviom Pro-16 snake (very similar to our own setup, which I’ve written about here)
  • Lead Vox Mic: Neuman KMS-105

All in all, it was a pretty sweet setup. It’s really quite remarkable the difference in clarity and presence those speakers have compared to our normal sanctuary setup (which I find to be completely insufficient). The gatherings take place at a nearby bandshell that faces into a hill. It’s a good 300′ from the top of the hill to the bandshell, but the sound was clear and even all the way up. Several people commented on how much separation they could hear between instruments, as opposed to everything mushing together in our room. Personally, I found it quite refreshing. I just wish I could have mixed it.

Here are some pictures I took to give you an idea of the venue. (click on any to enlarge)

The band practicing The band practicingAs you can see, the bandshell is quite good-sized. Our fairly small band had plenty of room to spread out. I think next week, we need dancers or something to take up some space.

Ghetto Iso Cabinet for the Guitar Amp Ghetto Iso Cabinet for the Guitar AmpWhen you don’t have a real isolation cabinet for the guitar amps, you make do with what you have. In this case, we used the absorption material from our drum shield in front, and packed in a bunch of other soft stuff in the back. For as ghetto as it looks, it worked great; sound levels on stage were very manageable. 

The crowd gathered and filled in nicely The crowd gathered and filled in nicelyWe had a good-sized crowd on hand, I would say 600-700 easily. It was a beautiful night, albeit a little warm. But we had a good breeze, and as the evening went on, shade covered more of the hill. We also have a BBQ prior to the gathering, so many came for the burgers and hots beforehand. Not to mention the giant inflatable toys for the kids.

Dan mixes from the FOH position Dan mixes from the FOH positionDan, from Reach Communications, was on top a very solid mix all night. On the apron in front of the stage, you can see the platform from which our missional director gave the evening’s talk. The biggest challenge of the night was dropping the speakers on stage left. The Genie lift was binding up and Dan had to climb on top of it to get the sections to drop correctly. That was fun. Note to self–always remember gloves.

If the weather cooperates for the next two Sundays, we’ll be back at the same spot and do it all again. I think the best part for me was to be able to hang out with the band after rehearsal. Normally, I’m tied up overseeing lighting, presentation and sound, so in this case, it was nice to just chill with everyone for a while. I’ve been brainstorming with a few of the band members about doing a podcast for this very blog; hopefully that’s something you’ll see coming up this fall.

Once September hits, we’re back indoors. We’ll be starting a new series and we will have a really exiting announcement that we’ll be inviting the community into being a part of. Can’t talk about it just yet, but keep watching. God’s doing very cool things with Upper Room, and it’s a joy to be a part of it!

Another Low-Tech Set

This week at Upper Room we kicked off a series called “I HATE That.” Which made for some fun inter-office e-mailing as we planned for it; Subject: I HATE That Rationale; Reply: Upon further reflection, I hate that rationale too… But I digress.

This week, the theme was Difficult Conversations. As we explored how to move the community beyond intellectual agreement that they may, in fact, need have some difficult conversations with people, someone came up with the idea of putting a giant calendar on stage. The “dates” would be stacks of paper with the number on one side and a suggested action plan for having that conversation on the other. The idea was to come forward, pick a date and write the person’s name on the calendar, and sometime between now and that date, they will have that conversation. 

Quite a few people came forward. I was moved when I watched one young man come forward and stand at the front edge of the stage, looking intently at the calendar. After a few moments, he chose a date, wrote down a name and took his sheet.

Because I was running presentation last night, I was unable to get down and take pictures as it was happening. But here are a few that I shot just after the gathering ended. Hopefully, you can get an idea of the scale of the calendar. It was huge, and quite heavy. It was made from butcher’s paper and black duct tape. We did tape it down to the stage with painter’s tape loops in multiple places (when I say we, I mean my boss and UR Creative Director, Craig). Thankfully (and perhaps surprisingly…), no one slipped on it, and the paper didn’t tear at all. 

Click on the pictures to enlarge…

Minimalist Set Design

The other day while recording the FaithTools podcast, we got talking about set design. I didn’t have a lot to say because at Upper Room we don’t do sets per-se. Upper Room meets at Christ Presbyterian Church, which hosts two contemporary and one traditional service each weekend. After the 11 AM contemporary finishes up, we invade the room and turn it into Upper Room. At the end of the night, we put it back the way we found it. And you should know the way we find it is a very traditional, old-school Presbyterian church sanctuary. Our services could be described as emergent and as you can imagine, that presents challenges.

We do the best we can however, and each week transform the space into one that works fairly well. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been in a series called Generations. It’s given us the opportunity to do some really fun and creative things, as the photos below show.

For Mother’s Day weekend, we went a little crazy and brought in three photo booths—the kind you would find at the mall or a fair (provided by The Traveling Photo Booth—thanks, Jeff!). They printed out a strip of 3 pictures, which we used as part of our experiential. That weekend the theme was What I Learned from My Parents. We had cards printed up that people could use to write notes of encouragement to their moms. They then attached the photo strip to the card. As you can see, the response was pretty great. [Note: click on any of the photos for a larger version.]

Though we don’t have much for lighting, the simple use of a gobo overlaid with a solid color creates a good-looking background.

The band at sound check. 

We had several hundred people come up and have their picture taken in the three booths while the band played a few worship tunes.

The view from FOH, which is located in the balcony, house center-left. If you look closely, you can see the massive pipe organ that belies the room’s very traditional feel.

The next weekend, we did something really out of the ordinary and performed a song from the musical Avenue Q. This was a bit challenging as the original musical was performed by Muppets. Never being ones to let details like that stop us, we substituted humans and put together some video footage that was projected on the main screens and a false back wall. The back wall was covered up with blank signs of colored poster board, which was used later in the evening to set up the message. The photos don’t really do the video projection justice—it looked a lot better live. The band and vocalists just knocked this one out of the park, and it turned out to be a great setup for the message, What I Learned as a Twentysomething.


You really need to see the larger version of this to get an idea of the video projected on the wall. The wall, by the way, is just 3/8″ plywood on a frame of 2x4s and covered with black foam insulation and black construction paper. It’s propped up in the back with diagonal braces made from engineered floor trusses.

We originally wanted the main screens black but because of the way our video distribution is wired, it would have meant a lot of hoops (I hope to rectify this eventually), so we left them on. In the end, we decided we liked it.

After the song, we invited people to come up and share a question they asked are are asking in their 20’s. An artist then wrote the question on one of the poster boards. After about 5 minutes, we had a wall full of questions.

Having only 15 conventional fixtures to light everything we need to is a challenge (we’ll be adding 5 more this week). As you can see, the color wash from the previous week is gone, but the tree gobo remains. That gave us some continuity, and we still were able to light the actors. Like a lot of things, more fixtures are better when it comes to lighting. Sadly, we’re running out of dimming channels, fixtures, space and cash.

So there you go. That gives you an idea of what we do on an “average” week. Actually, these two weekends were a bit bigger than usual. But it also shows what you can do if you don’t have the time, budget or facility to create the really cools sets that other churches do (for example, check out South Hills Church in Corona, CA; Van Metchke does a great job with sets out there).

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Holy Week

I guess if I were a serious blogger, I would have had this written last Monday. I was seriously tired, however, so it’s taken a while to pull this together. Holy Week at CPC/Upper Room is a busy time. From the Monday after Palm Sunday to Easter, we held 12 services. Thankfully, I only had direct involvement in four of them. They were big ones, though!

Tenebrae Walk-in

The walk-in look for Tenebrae. The Ring of Fire was a challenge to rig safely.

 On Good Friday, Upper Room hosts a program called Tenebrae (which means “darkness”). People enter and exit in darkness and we use light very sparingly. It’s a bit ironic that for our “darkness” service we bring in 6 Martin Mac700s, but having the ability to move and focus light is critical. The service is very dramatic and includes video elements, community prayers, a choir, over a dozen anointers, cross carriers and candle snuffers. All told it takes over 100 people to pull the service off.

Tenebrae Stage

Choir and Anointers in position.

 In the past, keeping the elements moving in time has been a challenge, especially cuing the cross carriers, snuffers and the Christ candle carrier. To make things go smoother, we decided to try using in-ear monitors for those key roles. By putting IEMs on the key participants, and a wireless mic/e6 combo on our creative director, he was able to cue everyone at the right time. In this service timing isn’t everything, but it’s a big part of it. And this year, the timing was great.

During one of the more moving (and complex) elements, the cross carriers remove the cross from it’s on-stage stand and pass it out in the congregation. As it flowed over people’s heads, it was really moving to see individuals reaching out to connect symbolically with the death of Christ. The challenge in the past has been keeping track of it and cuing the cross carriers to reign it in and help it move from section to section. With the IEMs, they could be directed really well, and totally discreetly. It worked pretty sweet.

Tenebrae Annointing

Hundreds were anointed and blessed during the service.

 Overall, Tenebrae came together wonderfully. Our Upper Room Director, Kurt, told me that it was the most seamless Tenebrae we’ve ever had. Since it was my first one, I can’t compare to others, but I felt very good about it. My goal is always to create an atmosphere of worship, and not call attention to technology. I think we were able to do that, do it well, and allow people to come into a deeper understanding of what Good Friday is all about. Honestly, it was a lot of work, but it was also a huge privilege.

At the end of the night I thought of E.V. Hill’s great sermon, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming!” True enough, two days later we were back again for a serious celebration. I’ve been to 18 Easter weekends since becoming a Christ-follower, and this one was totally unique. The theme of the night was “I AM the Door.” We had some very cool doors on stage, three of which key words on them. We lit the doors with a spotlight each so they popped off the stage.

Easter Doors













Three doors to represent three points of the spiritual journey

 Kurt’s message was right on and asked people to consider where they were in their relationship to Christ. At the end they were invited to walk through the door that most closely matched that relationship. Just exploring? Head through the “Say” door (“Who do you say I am?”) Committing to follow Christ? Walk through the “Believe” door (“Martha, just believe.”) Wanting to follow Christ more? “Love” (“Do you love me?”).

During the final worship set, hundreds of people walked through doors and worshiped their hearts out. It was amazing to see a huge crowd on stage dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. It was a serious party. And of course, the Mac700s from Tenebrae were there; this time swooping wildly over the crowd. It was very cool.

Easter Celebration

All those people on stage are having a big party! And the angels rejoice in heaven…

 All in all, the week was exhausting, but great. Best of all, I have some time off in the next few weeks to rest up and begin the next phase of our tech team development. As always, there’s more to come!

He is Risen! (You know the rest…)

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Christmas at Upper Room

Merry Christmas! Now the day after Christmas, I have to say it’s been one of the best ever. Rather than bore you with all the personal details of our Christmas (which you can read about here if you’re interested…), I thought I’d give you an glimpse into what Christmas services were like here at Upper Room/Christ Presbyterian Church.

First of all, there were a lot of them. Thankfully, I was only responsible for 2. Upper Room put together the 2 PM “Family Friendly” service and the Midnight gathering. In between were CPC’s 4, 6, 8 and 10:00 services. Since we share the same room and equipment, yet have vastly different worship styles, we decided to split up gear. CPC’s lighting needs were pretty basic, so they used our conventional, installed light rig. For our 2 services, we brought in six MAC 700s and brought out our Expression 3 console. As you can see from the pictures, it looked pretty nice. It’s truly amazing what you can accomplish with a limited number of moving fixtures.

Light Plot - wide

How do you make a very traditional space look contemporary? Black it out and add some cool lights!

My lighting guy, John, and I arrived Sunday to set up and program the cues. In about 4 hours we had both programs done, and were heading home. This made Monday a breeze. I had already built the Media Shout scripts on Friday, so we were in really good shape. For audio, we had our normal 5 piece band and 2 vocals, which was set up very quickly. Sound check went well, if not a bit slower than normal, but we were ready to open doors at 1:50.

Thankfully, it was not a production heavy service. Mostly hymns, a really fun kids drama (utilizing the 4 beds on stage), and a message. We also put together a click-track video that ran over the live band performance of While You Were Sleeping by Casting Crowns. I had a bit of a challenge in putting together the click, so I’ll be writing a quick post with some suggestions on that in a day or so.

One distinctive element of Upper Room gatherings is the “experiential.” For the 2 PM, we had several hundred pillow cases printed up with “Blank is Awake to Jesus!” Near the end of the gathering, Kurt invited kids to come down and write their name in the blank and remember to be awake to Jesus this year. Normally when we do an experiential, there is a trickle of people that eventually turns into a lot of people. In this case, it was like the kids were teleported down there. It was unbelievable. Hundreds of kids showed up and had a great time. Check it out…


Hundreds of parents and kids stormed the stage to get their pillow. Few (if any) were hurt… Seriously, it was really cool.

Our biggest challenges came right after and right before our services. We had to completely strike the stage after the 2, while CPC was setting up. Then a few hours later, as soon as the doors opened after the 10 finished, we rushed in and re-set. Because of the Upper Room worship style, we hang heavy black curtains around the entire lower level, black out the windows, and put of a ton of candles. All of this had to be set, removed and re-set. I personally thank God for the dozens of volunteers who made this happen quickly and smoothly.

The midnight service was almost identical to the 2 PM, with minor changes. I came in early to fix my click track, and we tweaked the lights just slightly. The atmosphere was really introspective and worshipful throughout the entire evening by design, though it was amazing how many people showed up at Midnight!


The funniest moment of the evening (for the crew anyway) was during the candle lighting. At the end, the band was working their way toward Silent Night and the lighters started firing up candles. Because of the location of the tech booth, we couldn’t tell how it was going. The plan was to do a 30 second light fade to black as the candles lit up. The trick was to not fire the cue too early and leave everyone in the dark, or too late and make it look silly. We took our best guess, and it worked out great. The lights faded down almost imperceptibly and the room grew bright with candle light. I mean it was bright!

Candle Light

There is not a lick of electrically driven light in the room at this point. Just about 1500 candle-power.

So there we were, relishing in the moment of a perfectly timed light cue when the Creative Director (who sits in the house, nearby stage left) comes on the com and says, “OK, you can take the lights now…” John and I looked at each other and I replied, “Uh, what lights, they’re all out.” “That’s crazy!” he said, “Amazing, OK never mind.” 1500 candles will really light up an all white room.

After that all we had to do was shoo everyone out so we could pack up and go home. It was a herculean effort, but in under 25 minutes we had the lights and sound struck and we were ready to go. All in all, it was a great day, very worshipful and low stress. I’m thinking this is how Christmas should be!

Again, Merry Christmas from the great white north known as Minnesota! Peace…

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