AUGUSTA, ME – A church is far more than a physical building. Executive Pastor Josh Parker and his team at Central Church have been proving this every weekend since March 14 when, out of concern for the well-being of worshippers in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, they closed their building to the public and began livestreaming their Saturday evening and Sunday services.
Streamed on Facebook and YouTube, the services are providing the church’s community with an enriched and engaging worship experience, complete with excellent production-level audio, graphics, and lighting. Still, as Easter approached, Pastor Parker and his team were seeking to add an extra, and even more immersive element to their online services. This ultimately led them to journey 147 miles south to the Events United’s Studio Lab in Derry, New Hampshire.
“During Easter we always look for creative ways to reach more people by expanding production,” said Pastor Parker. “Once it became clear we would not be able to hold our usual Easter services, we started searching for innovative ways to improve our online production level. We had great experiences working with Events United before on our arena services, and most recently, I’ve been impressed by how quickly Tim Messina and his team have worked to provide a very generous and affordable online recording option for churches and events at their space in Studio Lab. It became clear to us that this was our Easter service solution.”
On Sunday March 29, Pastor Parker, along with a group of associate pastors and musicians, took to the Virtual Event Stage set up at the Events United Studio Lab to record a special service that will be shared on Facebook and YouTube on Easter Sunday. “The majority of our services, including the worship and sermon, were recorded at their studio,” he said. “We will also be incorporating some additional pre-produced welcome, invitation, and music videos that will be done in-house, but the impactful moments were created at Events United.”
Adding to the impact of those moments was Events United’s collection of over 100 CHAUVET Professional fixtures that included Maverick MK2 Spot, Ovation ellipsoidals, and Ovation CYC I FC units as well as F2 video panels. Positioned on eight vertical uprights located four apiece on each side of the stage as well as on two overhead rows of truss, the fixtures enveloped the stage in light for the more intense moments of the service, while also providing specials for individual performers and soft washes for more reflective periods.
“The rig gives us a great deal of flexibility to create a variety of looks in a relatively small space,” said Jon Martell, Production Design Manager at Events United. “We have been using variations of this rig for videoing church services since the pandemic started. “In this case, we added four STRIKE 4s to deliver extra punch. These fixtures had a big impact on the look we created by washing everything with a glorious tungsten shade that looked excellent on camera.”
This perspective is compatible with the emphasis that Central Church places on creating compelling visuals. “We have always seen production as a way to break down the walls that many have built up against the church,” said Pastor Parker. “We use well-mixed audio, clear visuals and graphics, and intentional lighting to help people see that the church is a welcome environment for creativity and expression, as we celebrate and experience the love of God.”
In addition to praising the design capabilities he saw at the Studio Lab; Pastor Parker was impressed by the safety-first approach at the facility. “It is worth noting that Studio Lab has taken health safety and the sterilization very seriously,” he said. “When we arrived, there were clear signs on the doors indicating who could enter the space — and a crew had just finished cleaning the entire building. They made sure to sterilize each microphone and any other shared gear before and after any use. We were provided with designated areas for our band and asked to refrain from entering any rooms outside of the kitchen, bathrooms, and green room designated for our team’s exclusive use.”
As Easter draws closer, Pastor Parker is excited about the prospect of reaching more worshippers through the recorded service, which he feels will build on the momentum created by the church’s recent streaming. “We’ve been blown away by the number of new people we’ve been able to reach in Maine, and the rest of county through our livestreamed services,” he said. “They have brought hope to so many more people than we ever imagined!”
Reaching new people even when the church is “closed”…. Driving over two hours to another state to record Easter services that will be seen by many outside New England…. This church is indeed more than a building.