Article in The Frederick News-Post (April 2008)

High-tech upgrades for churches boosting audio-video business
Originally published April 22, 2008

By Ike Wilson
News-Post Staff

Jerry Ferson did not see a hymn book in the six and a half years he worked as media director at Maranatha Community Church of God in Christ. And gone are the days when a church service included only an organ, a piano or both.

Many local churches have upgraded to the latest high-tech audio-visual productions, eliminating hymnals in the process and becoming renowned for their theatrical productions for Easter and Christmas.

The trend is boosting business for audio-video companies.

There’s been an explosion over the last few years of churches investing in their audio-video capabilities, said Eric Johnson, founder and president of Audio-Video Group in Frederick.

“People, especially young people, want something catchy,” Johnson said. “Churches are driven to offer something that entertains. People want to get the same level of energy they get in other parts of their lives.”

Two of the most vital ingredients in worship are sound and song, the Rev. Jack Hartman, a
United Methodist Church superintendent, said in 2005 Frederick News-Post report.

“It doesn’t make any difference how good the music, the prayers or the preaching if one cannot hear clearly because the sound does not have quality,” the Rev. Hartman said. “Likewise it doesn’t make any difference how good the sound, if the music is not quality. The combination of the two, if done well, can inspire and stimulate. The combination of the two if either is done poorly will be disheartening and boring.”

The need for high-tech audio-video systems is due in part to people coming back to church, especially after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the country, Johnson said.

“Churches have been seeing a resurgence in their membership, and these are people who are coming from non-church backgrounds who want to be ministered to in a way that relates to them, not to mention the evolution of people and their need for something new,” Johnson said.

Done properly, an audio-video system should add to the worship experience, not detract from it, Johnson said.

When the Frederick Church of The Brethren needed a comprehensive audio-video system, church officials weren’t sure that a local firm could handle the scope of their demands, the Rev. Paul Mundey, senior pastor, wrote in a letter about the project.

Audio-Video Group installed the church’s system, leaving some happy campers.

“Our project was rather comprehensive, involving sound reinforcement, video displays and a variety of specialty lighting arrangements,” the Rev. Mundey said. “It was complex, utilizing the latest in both design and technology.”

But in turning to Audio-Video Group, Church of The Brethren was not disappointed, the Rev. Mundey said.

“We could not be more pleased with our product,” the Rev. Mundey said.

Johnson’s company showed “top-flight professionalism and sensitive understanding of the unique culture of the church … and lifted a major burden as we sought to implement this complex project,” the Rev. Mundey said.

Not all equipment created equal.

Audio/video systems vary in size and capabilities, Ferson said.

“You have a choice in equipment between a Cadillac and a Dodge.” He said there’s a big difference between an overhead projector you can get from Staples or Home Depot for $800-$900 and the $35,000 Sony equipment at Maranatha. And similar equipment can run as high as $150,000, Ferson said.

“The difference is the distance it can throw an image and the amount of light it can take,” he said.

Maranatha’s state-of-the-art audio/video and lighting suite cost approximately $370,000. The church also has a digital marquee used to publicize events and offer encouraging words to live by. Maranatha may be the first church in Frederick to use a digital marquee, Ferson said.

“Anyone who comes into the audio/video section is overwhelmed” by what they see, Ferson said.

Ferson was a part of the team that decided on the audio/video suite for the church when the $4.7 million edifice was in its planning stages. The Crest Audio X-8 — a 40 channel sound mixer board with volume controls — was one of his favorite pieces of equipment, Ferson said.

The mixer allows 40 different inputs from microphones and four in-lines for compact disc or digital video disc. The matrix board itself sends audio through the equalizer and from the equalizer to the amplifiers and from the amps to the speakers.

Photo Caption and Credit:
Photo by courtesyPhoto
This integrated audio-video system installed by Audio-Video Group of Frederick, in the Frederick Church of the Brethren, helps the church bring “greater voice and vision to its communion,” the Rev. Paul Mundey said.

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