First Baptist Church of Norman The communication objectives of churches are quite similar from region to region; it's the means by which they obtain them that varies. In addition, most ministers and worship managers of mid- to large-sized houses of worship have comparable goals: attract, support, and retain congregations full of content worshipers.

The First Baptist Church of Norman, OK, understands that this paradigm requires a delicate balance of traditional worship and contemporary technology. The 100+-year-old church - organized in 1889 adjacent to the original building plot of the University of Oklahoma - recently elected to enhance its media and communication objectives by integrating a high performance projection system to communicate with its 1,500-person congregation.

Complete with a 10.5' x 14' front-projection screen, advanced control automation, and a custom-built systems booth, First Baptist took advantage of an aesthetic renovation to upgrade its display tools to "fit" the architecture with little disruption to its historic atmosphere. "Work began in tandem with a major renovation," recalls Ken Holsinger, director of sales at Fowler Design Group, a Norman AV dealership responsible for the video design and integration. "This church has significant historical relevance and its video integration had to include a mindful preservation of its aesthetics."

At first glance, Fowler representatives recognized the traditional architecture would cause design AV challenges. Lofty, high ceilings and giant stained-glass windows would offer a formidable test to a projector's brightness. Ultimately, they recommended and installed a Digital Projection POWER 5dv, 5000 ANSI lumen projector, based on a three-chip DLP[TM] light engine by Texas Instruments, to combat the church's bright atmosphere.

First Baptist and Fowler selected a variety of computer and video sources for phase one of its integration, including a custom-designed Dell computer package with dual monitor capabilities as well as DVD and VTR players. At the heart of the system is a Panja control package that is networked to an Altinex matrix switcher. The Panja interface was adopted to be simple and easily accessed. Its current setup allows for screen operation and presentation, source selection, and projector operation. Systems control and signal processing hardware by AMX and Extron assist with the 5dv's display of multiple sources. The church also added two Sony 42" plasma monitors, installed under the balcony, to complement the POWER 5dv's large-screen imagery. Da-Lite screens were used on the project.

According to First Baptist's business administrator, Dick Elliott, this considerable undertaking required a clear and collective approach by the church officials and committees. "The main motivation was to bring us up to date with our media presentations for use in church services," he says. "Our stewardship committee has embraced the projection technology and uses it to tell the story of our church missions and other activities."

The church's team also started the creative process and immediately produced and launched its own "Ministry Moments," a selection of computer-based graphics and text, to visually share church events and keep members apprised of new opportunities to stay involved outside of regular Sunday worship services. This visual reinforcement has worked well. "The imagery is great. Every time we turn around, somebody is requesting to use the media. We are starting to get a stream of requests by more internal committees to help in telling the church's `story,' " adds Elliott.

Eric Lardner, Digital Projection's central region market development manager, suggests it is paramount for church administrators to thoroughly research the market to find the right systems integration "partner" before rushing to purchase. "In the end, churches need to be able to work with a dealer, integrator, and/or consultant who can deliver a wide spectrum of products, a skilled system design, professional installation, and expert, conscientious service after the sale," notes Lardner.

Elliott would recommend this projection paradigm to other churches of similar size. "We have found that more and more, media presentation is becoming an integral part of church services, especially for our younger generation, who are very technically inclined. It's been a hit with them and hopefully, in the near future, we will have a contemporary service that will utilize this media even more so," he says.