ETC lighting and controls bring cathedral out of wilderness and into the present day

Date Posted: 11/11/2021

ETC and Saint John’s Cathedral

Things change. Located in bustling downtown Denver, Saint John’s Cathedral is the center of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado. It was originally called “Saint John’s in the Wilderness” because when it was founded in 1860 the nearest Episcopal church was located more than 700 miles away. Unfortunately for the church, not much had changed in the past few decades for their lighting, last updated in the 1960s. Church leaders knew they needed new lighting and controls but, being a cathedral (and on the National Register of Historic Places), they wanted to keep the upgrades as unobtrusive as possible to maintain the sanctity of the space.

They decided on a retrofit that would install LED engines in housings installed in the ‘60s and change out the sconce lighting along the walls to LEDs sources as well. And even though they are a traditional church, with all the ceremony and solemnity that entails, they also installed two of ETC’sColorSource PARs to light the chancel. The ColorSource fixtures are cleverly hidden from public view and add color to the lighting for feast day services, its weekly Wilderness liturgy, midweek Communion services, small burials, intimate weddings, and other special occasions.

ETC and Saint John’s Cathedral

“They’re not using them as spots, they don’t light the priests with them,” explains Jared Canada, the project manager for the upgrade at GLS Lighting and Controls, a lighting manufacturer’s rep in Denver. “They’re used as fill lights. With ColorSource, the whites look really great, but when they want to they have easy access to color to give the service a different feel.”

It was important to keep the newer lights and any controls hidden. “The concerns were not to interrupt the architecture and the service with intrusive fixtures and controls,” says Canada. “Nothing can look modern in there.” A relay panel is hidden in an old vestment closet. Button stations were built into existing cabinets and color-matched to perfectly blend in with existing décor. A portable Paradigm Handheld Touchscreen offer more custom control for the priests and staff but can be safely stored away after use.

ETC and Saint John’s Cathedral

Attached to the Cathedral is a smaller worship space named Saint Martin’s Chapel. Built in the 1930s, it’s full of ornate woodwork and hand-painted details. Due to poor lighting those details were nearly invisible for years. GLS and Canada presided over an upgrade to the lighting in that space, too. Chandelier bulbs went LED, new uplights illuminated the ceiling, and ColorSource PARs wash the altar, a carving of the nativity scene, stained glass, and other artwork in the chapel.

“When we turned it on for the first time, the staff was blown away,” recalls Canada. “The ceiling is just beautiful, with ornate woodwork and hand-painted details – just stunning. They had never seen it before. The lights made it come to life.”

ETC in Saint Martin’s Chapel

As with the Cathedral, all switches and stations are custom color-matched to the chapel’s design and hidden as much as possible. The Handheld Touchscreen for the Cathedral can also control the lights for the chapel, too. “We have basic presets for each of the spaces and specific colors, but we also gave them the ability to record their own presets if they like.”

With Paradigm controls and ColorSource PARs, the church retains its traditional feel but can change the lighting look more than every few decades.