Project Highlight: New London Presbyterian Church Builds, Its Future

Just in time for Thanksgiving-Christmas 2007, The New London Presbyterian Church, of New London, PA, opened its brand-new, 50,000-square-foot facility, using a two-story, two-phase design by AE Technologies. The finished first phase – a complete facility with a sanctuary for 700 – will support future growth through adding a second unit that mirrors the first. It is part of New London’s 60-acre Christian Life campus. The congregation is one of the country’s oldest, dating back to 1726.

We were contracted to design, specify, and oversee installation of the audiovisual system; provide an acoustical analysis and recommendations; and develop criteria for a lighting design scheme – all with a view to the needs of the eventual future expansion. TA was brought onto the project by the church’s Mission Director, Mark Ham.

Audio for the sanctuary was designed with maximum flexibility for a variety of services, events and musical instrumentation. Additional rooms have in-ceiling loudspeakers with wall-mounted volume controls tied into the sanctuary audio. The installer was Vistacom, Inc.

Most services in the new building are contemporary in style, with music and vocals. The instrument range includes drums, electronic drums, brass and woodwinds, keyboards, piano, electric- and acoustic guitar, harmonica and electric violin. The sanctuary also hosts conferences, community events, theatrical performances, the annual Christmas pageant and Last Supper and satellite broadcasts.

TA specified a sound reinforcement system using a monaural loudspeaker cluster with side fill arrays and delay loudspeakers to extend coverage above and below the balcony. A selection of wired and wireless microphones, plus monitor loudspeakers, supports musicians and vocalists as well as Pastor Jeff and other speakers.

Video in the sanctuary and other spaces is fed by a 10,000 lumen HD projector. Three plasma displays around the altar provide visual fold-back for the Worship Leaders and Praise Team. In addition to supplying magnified images of what’s going on in the sanctuary, video projection displays sermon notes, announcements, and lyrics.

Four remote-controllable video cameras cover the sanctuary and distribute signals to classrooms, offices, etc. via a building-wide master antenna television system (MATV). Any monitor hooked up to the system can tune in. The church also records services to cassette, CD and MP3.

Sound techs at the church are especially pleased with the new 48-channel digital mixing console (48 mics, 4 stereo inputs), the Yamaha M7CL. TA has had a great deal of success recommending this unit for religious facilities. “It is a very capable board and provides an extensive level of control over each channel,” says Ham. “The Yamaha has really been embraced.”

Creating a supportive acoustical environment was part of the plan early on. “The church leadership recognized the importance of good acoustics to a worship experience and designated funds for that,” says Ham. “The pastor wants to be clearly heard.”
Part of TA’s acoustical analysis of the church utilized a 3-D virtual model of the sanctuary with a Windows-based software program called EASE. “Using the computer model along with other, more traditional acoustical design tools, we were able to redirect sound as needed, optimize decay times, reduce echoes, raise sound levels for the congregation and significantly improve speech intelligibility and clarity” states our engineer. Treatment included judicious application of gypsum board and wall carpet to some surfaces, adding some fiberglass panels and removing others, and reshaping the balcony and rear walls. The computer model also gave New London’s technical team the opportunity to hear and analyze the current room design and the effects of any changes.

TA made suggestions for design and control of both house and theatrical lighting. These criteria were implemented and installed by Clair Brothers.