Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, MI has been expanding for over three decades, with its most recent infrastructure buildout completed in 2001 with a new 2,600-seat Worship Center on its 100-acre campus for a congregation that’s grown to over 3,000. But as with many things in life, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.
At the time the new sanctuary was built, the JBL component-based point-source PA system they had chosen was state of the art and seemed sufficient. However, over time, as congregants and AV ministry representatives encountered other churches and other sound systems, comparisons began to fall short.
“In twelve years both the technology has changed and expectations in the culture have changed,” observes Paul VanDyke, technical director for Central Wesleyan for much of that time. The previous PA system consisted of a few EAW enclosures and a small Mackie mixer; the move to a larger point-source system seemed at the time like a quantum leap.
“The problem,” VanDyke continues, “is that as church we hadn’t been exposed to enough other churches that had sound systems that better reflected what the state of the art, and what it was becoming,” a reference to the ascendancy of the line array PA system configuration that has been adopted by many churches and other venues of varying sizes, from arenas and mega-churches to small clubs and small urban houses of worship. “The PA design we had was essentially out of date almost as soon as it was put in, through the system itself was as good as that kind of design can be,” he says, which allowed it to be at least serviceable for the better part of the past decade.
Now, Central Wesleyan is in the midst of a nearly $1-million upgrade to its sound system and some of its lights, including more moving light fixtures. The lesson it’s trying to take from its past experience is to recognize that, unlike faith, technology is fleeting and that what one generation might have thought was the end of a project is, in the digital age, merely the beginning of the next phase of a process that, while not truly eternal, is never really finished.
One part of the next round of upgrade is already accomplished: five years ago the church opted for an Avid Venue digital audio console. At the time, going with a digital console seemed a bit risky for a church. The conservative nature of its committee-based budget-approval process means it tends not to live on the leading edge of technological change. But