Hawaiian church goes hi-tech with ETC lighting

For years, Hope Chapel in Kihei, Maui, Hawaii, rented warehouse space in an industrial park to hold services. In March 2005, the church began construction on a new facility located on a strip of highway between the main airport and the island’s resorts. In this highly visible location, the church is attracting many more people, including tourists. With this new home and a growing congregation, church leaders recognized the need for new stage and lighting technology, which would enhance the quality of Hope’s services, productions and ultimately its overall message of faith. They chose lighting by ETC.

Hope’s staff wanted to take production lighting to a new level by adding moving lights to the new rig, and they wanted to be able to control them easily with a single powerful console. They turned to Jim McCandliss of Sound Investment Enterprises, which specializes in designing media, sound, rigging and lighting systems, to come up with the cost-effective technical solutions that would give them the greatest value for their investment, but wouldn’t ‘tie their hands’ with equipment limitations. McCandliss recommended an ETC lighting system, because it provides comprehensive capability while proving his assertion that ‘you don’t have to be a mega-church to have great equipment.’

The new church facility consists of three buildings in a U-shape around an outdoor plaza: a main auditorium, a two-storey education building, and a two-storey administration building. The 700-seat main church auditorium now employs an ETC Congo® lighting control console, four ETC Source Four Revolution® automated fixtures, an ETC Sensor® dimming system, distributed DMX and 60 Source Four® conventional fixtures. Says McCandliss: “The products that ETC has introduced and new ones coming down the line reinforce the idea that you can have really good gear without breaking the bank.”

In addition to its lighting system, the auditorium has a 50ft x 36ft stage with 9ft x 12ft rear projection screens on either side that are used for song lyrics, video clips and scripture references. The hi-tech space also includes catwalks, scrims, cycs, portable staging pieces and a backstage loading dock.

As the church grows, their lighting system can grow with it by adding more functions to the Congo console, which features a high channel count and complete control over conventional and automated fixtures, as well as mediaservers, LEDs and any other DMX-controlled multiparameter devices. Says McCandliss: “This board lets us do a lot of things in a much more elegant, much simpler way than we could with a conventional desk.”

Hope Chapel had its first service in the new auditorium on April 1st – just a week before Palm Sunday and Easter week – so the lighting staff had to hit the ground running during the busiest season of the year. Two teams of volunteers run the lighting for the church, and most of them are novices. But they quickly got the hang of using Congo and say it’s been very intuitive to work with. And, as the console operators have mastered the board, they’re getting more experimental and bolder in their lighting designs. McCandliss says that they’ve already added eight additional moving lights, and plan on adding more in the future to enhance their ambitious creativity.

Ordinarily, the church has three services a week attended by 1500 people: a service on Friday night with a contemporary feel, and two on Sunday with a more traditional approach. The Friday night services usually include “a lot of lighting design,” even enlisting a smoke machine that the Congo seamlessly controls. In all Hope’s services, lighting complements music, helping to set the mood and theme. The Source Four Revolutions are used for dynamic spotlighting and strong accent lights, as well as for projecting gobos and patterns onto various parts of the stage and auditorium.

Since Hope Chapel is in Hawaii, one unique lighting-design aim is good hula-dance lighting. “The right lighting accentuates the form and style of hula,” says McCandliss, “bringing a new dimension to the choreography. The lighting system has enhanced this part of the service in ways we couldn’t address before.”

Beyond the Congo, an ETC Unison architectural lighting-control system is used for the general lighting in the auditorium. Three Unison wallstations are a convenient solution for everyday control. At the touch of a button, preset lighting looks can be activated by anyone for task-lighting purposes such as cleaning or rehearsals.

Many of Hope Chapel’s services are videotaped for viewing on a local cable channel as well as on a closed-circuit television for the church’s bookstore, green room and child care areas. McCandliss says that one big benefit of the new lighting system is more versatility in lighting speakers on stage, and consequently, much better video imaging than what was possible in the old facility. The church often also uses the auditorium for interviews and seminars since the lighting capabilities in the facility enhance any event.

In the education building, rooms are set up so that high-school and junior-high students can hold their own worship services and classes there. Portable lighting gear -- an ETC SmartFade® console, a wall-mount SmartPack™ combined with Source Four PAR and PARNel® fixtures – are ideal for these functions. These spaces also serve college student and ‘tween’ groups who also enjoy the flexibility and user-friendliness of the lighting systems.

During good weather, the church holds events and services on their plaza. Anticipating a future need, building designers installed additional power distribution on the plaza so that auxiliary dimming systems can be used for evening events that feature lighting design.

Hope has now completed the first phase of its campus development, utilizing about half of the 18 acres it owns. In the future, the church wants to build a 1500-seat auditorium – which would be the biggest on the island – surpassing even the 1100-seat public performing arts center.


Hope Chapel, Kihei, Maui, HI

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"The right lighting accentuates the form and style of hula, bringing a new dimension to the choreography. The lighting system has enhanced this part of the service in ways we couldn’t address before.” – Jim McCandliss, Sound Investment Enterprises

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