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In a Tennessee Church, Technology Meets Tradition

by PLSN Staff • in
  • Installations
  • November 2017
• Created: November 9, 2017
The installation includes four Rogue units that highlight the church’s classic pipe organ. Photo courtesy First United Methodist Church of Oak Ridge, TN

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LED Fixtures Light a Classic Pipe Organ in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Located in a thicketed valley at a bend in the Clinch River, the sparsely populated area that would become Oak Ridge, TN seemed like a spot that time had forgotten in 1941. That all changed one year later, though, when the U.S. government chose this location as a primary site for developing materials for the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II.

The $2 billion Manhattan Project, undertaken to develop the first nuclear weapons, would eventually encompass close to 30 locations in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. But starting with a first wave of 13,000 engineers at the Oak Ridge location in 1942, scientists from all over the free world started descended on the area, and by 1945, a city of 75,000 had sprung up in the Tennessee wilderness.

Among the newcomers was a group of young Methodist engineers drawn from various parts of North America. Far from home during a time of war, they gathered for services every Sunday at the local movie theater.

By the 1950s, with the war over and Oak Ridge transformed into a thriving peacetime research hub, the group of worshippers opened their first permanent church campus. That stately building still serves as the home of the First United Methodist of Oak Ridge today.

Earlier this year, the church’s leaders wanted to upgrade their lighting system, which received its last major improvement more than three decades ago, to reflect the needs of a modern house of worship. However, they also were adamant about retaining the traditional flavor a building that means so much to their community.

Ken Patterson of A Tennessee Lighting Company was able to help them achieve a well-balanced blend of technology and tradition by using a rig made up of compact LED fixtures, and taking care to install these units in ways that had them harmonize with their surroundings. His lighting actually enhanced the traditional look of the long narrow sanctuary with its high wood-ribbed vaulted ceiling.

Ken Patterson of A Tennessee Lighting Company chose Chauvet Professional fixtures for the LED upgrade at First United Methodist Church.

‡‡         The LED Upgrade

Among the most notable scenic elements to benefit from the new lighting system is the church’s massive 1984 Moeller Pipe Organ located at the back of the sanctuary stage. Paterson added an extra visual dimension to the impressive instrument, which features 2,795 pipes, by illuminating it with Rogue R2 Wash fixtures from Chauvet Professional. Aside from bringing out the majestic beauty of the organ, the four Rogue units also enhance the visual impact of the performances on the instrument.

“The church really wanted to light the pastor and highlight the large pipe organ,” said Patterson. “We use the Rogues for this accenting. The Rogues are also used to highlight the different performers during worship music recitals. A really good thing about the Rogues in this application is their ability to refocus for multiple positions, which greatly increases the versatility of our lighting.”

Another scenic feature accented by the new lighting design is the large cross over the stage. Patterson illuminates it with two Ovation E-260WW ellipsoidals. He shutters one of these units vertically and the other horizontally to match the cross-shape.

Joining the Rogue and Ovation units in the church’s main sanctuary are six COLORado 2 Quad Zoom and 16 COLORado 1-Quad Zoom fixtures, also from Chauvet Professional. These LED units replaced the incandescent par cans and reflector floods that were positioned in the ceiling.

Arranged 24 feet above the floor, the COLORado fixtures are used for down washing. Added down lighting is provided by 12 750W decorative pendant down lights, each with two dimming circuits, and 24 250W recessed down lights. A dozen 300W sconces bring added color to the room and dramatize its distinct architectural elements.

Ovation E 260WW ellipsoidals illuminate the cross

‡‡         A Classic Look and Feel

During the installation process, Patterson paid careful attention to harmonizing his design with the church’s aesthetic environment. “Our overriding goal was to keep the new lighting unobtrusive,” he said. “This was very important to the church. They wanted the look to flow with the architecture. So, we mounted all the lights on pipes, painted them to match the wood walls and kept everything at lowest profile possible.”

The new LED fixtures allow the church to create a video-friendly lighting environment for services and support various events with more dynamic visuals, while still retaining the look and feel of the sanctuary’s original design.

“The zoom function of the fixtures results in an absolutely perfect blending of colors,” said Patterson. “A typical Sunday morning service will not likely see the deep saturated colors that are possible with these fixtures, but the church has already used the full spectrum of colors available for many different functions. The good smooth white for cameras, along with the color temperature macros, makes our lighting well suited for lighting video services as well.”

Patterson also installed 30 LED units in the contemporary services area of the building. The fixtures include four Rogue R2 Wash, four COLORado 1-Quad Zoom, and four COLORado 2-Quad Zoom fixtures as well as four SlimPAR Q12 USBs from Chauvet DJ plus LED tape.

‡‡         Dimmers and Control

Critical to the success of this redesign project were the control and dimmer products that Patterson installed. He utilized a Philips Strand 250ML Lighting console with a 20” high resolution LED monitor for lighting control and a Lightronics SR516W Architectural Control, mounted in three-space rack panel for architectural lighting. Also used were a Lightronics AC-2116 16-channel remote for SR516W and two Lightronics App01 momentary contact entrance stations as well as an ETC SR48 dimmer rack (96 x 2.4kW) and three Chauvet DJ Data Stream 4 Opto splitters.

With its LED fixtures and control solutions, First United Methodist Oak Ridge is clearly in step with new technology. That’s in keeping with the technological sophistication of its research centric community. At the same time, though, Patterson’s thoughtful design pays homage to this church’s unique tradition.

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