Between reports of the persecution of Galileo and the prosecution of John Scopes, it's easy to get, and keep, the idea that Religion and Science don't get along too well. That's probably not wholly true, but the battle lines drawn by those sensational instances stick in minds, the physician-phobic Church of Christian Science, notwithstanding. Still, science's trail of light tells us that Newton was about as devout as they come and that Stephen Hawking wonders if God might not let us see into the Planck Era. What's more, Matthew 28:19 plainly urges us to use CD-R with gusto. But when we think of relations between these two mega-institutions, we'll always see dogged Creationist William Jennings Bryan fulminating against Evolution before God and gavel.
We like that idea, or our mass media do anyway, and thus we'll tend to as well; angry authorities make for good copy, and neat recognizable narratives to comfort ourselves with. After all, science or scripture, teacher or preacher, we're basically buying someone else's story, and stories starved for conflict don't sell. We have an obligation as Americans, too, to neglect what's really at stake for incidentals and symptoms, so it never hurts to believe that our intellectuals are at each other's throats over angels and pinheads.
Being a fervent patriot, I was a little shocked to learn that Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois sports a better A/V rig than the Grammys did this year, though I can't say whether it's the Church part or the Peoria part that shocked me. Everyone knows Jesus would trounce Eminem in a battle of stage presence, but I always figured KISS would clobber ‘em both in the Corn Belt. What's more, to see who plays first and last in Peoria materially play itself out in the 16-module video wall, mounted behind a choir, really drives the point home. Ohio's Akron Baptist Temple, too, it happens, recent-ly installed a German-engineered sound system; a church in Florida put up what looks to be a couple 10,000-lumen projectors; production consultants are belting out Jubilees like there's no tomorrow, which may very well be, according to one source. You can read about all of this and more—including a great article on "Some Real World Solutions for Taming Stage Volumes and Room Acoustics"—in the November/December 2000 issue of Church Production Magazine, a publication devoted to A/V technology for houses of worship.
You might occasionally find an unusual mix of advice in the pages of Church Production. "After the program is over, be sure to ‘punch out' or change all cassette and DAT recording tabs, so that you do not accidentally erase a program. Most importantly, be sure to pray for the Lord's guidance and assistance before [and during] the program," admonishes Tony Brooks' article "Recording Your Christmas Events" in the November/ December 1999 issue. Another story reminds church A/V coordinators to be prepared for the apathy of non-believing sound engineers.
Still, taken on the whole, it's a formidable technical magazine, useful far beyond its proclaimed audience. Kind of a bizarro-world, upper room EMedia, where technology serves God over Mammon, and hums along to gospel rather than Napsterized rock ‘n' roll. Nearly all the content is practical. If it's not an article on sound system optimization, it's a thorough analysis of lighting at a recent large-scale production—and most instances of "Christmas pageant" could be replaced with "Monsters of Rock 2001 Tour" without losing any meaning or value.
In His Own Rimage
It was Church Production Magazine (admittedly, "the fact of its existence more than its content") that alerted CD-R pro/star Rimage Corporation of this ecclesiastical warmth for bleeding edge technology. This, in turn, led to the discovery of a booming trend among some churches: tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of parishioners are leaving Sun- day services with hope in their souls and a CD of the prior week's sermon. According to Rimage public relations rep Keva Meyer, at one company handling duplication orders from an assortment of churches, "demand grew from a minimum average order of 50 to 250 CD-R copies several years ago, to orders ranging from 250, 500, and 1,000 to 25,000 copies per customer per week." Move over, Thriller.
That company, Lacrad International, probably the busiest (and hippest) company I've seen in a long time, has been catering in a variety of capacities to churches, synagogues, temples, and plain old secular businesses since 1984. Today, it offers everything a digital ministry might require, including—and this is only scratching the surface—Internet broadcast (it's home to four Christian Internet stations—picture west Texas or eastern North Carolina in cyberspace), Web hosting for both content delivery and CD sales, and technical consulting. As far as duplication goes, Lacrad offers several different trademarked "media services," such as CD Visitor (for people unable to attend services), CD Outreach, and CD Sermons. All the company's efforts to date have been audio-only; plans for the future include IP broadcast movies and television, as well as conversion to DVD-R on the duplication side, within the year. Lacrad has its own plant in Ohio, all set for the upgrade.
Lacrad's facility in Ohio began with four Rimage Protégé units; later, four Rimage ProStar units were added; today, there are a grand total of eight ProStar units churning out discs. These ProStar systems aren't exactly small change: that's eight drives a piece, officially supporting up to 12X recording, with a 500-disc capacity, which is to say, if one of them fought me, it would win. Cooler than these items, though, is the fact they're run remotely from Lacrad Corporate headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois: data becomes an image, which, in turn, becomes a disc, all over a WAN. Bill Blank, executive vice president of operations, says of the rig, "It's working beautifully. The primary benefit is the ability to load it up and walk away. Return, and the job is done; the automation is fabulous."