A little warning - this is going to be a tiny bit of a rant. You see, I was at the wedding of a dear friend yesterday in a Sydney church. It was a wonderful service. The songs were well chosen and the service superbly led. The preaching was clear and biblical. The decorations were beautiful. The crowd was happy to be there, and happy the rain had held off. A wonderful celebration, which nothing could have spoiled.
But during the vows, we did have to put up with some pretty woeful sound. "I Jack*...[feedback]...in the presence of God [squeal] take you Jill [static then squeal] to be my wife [low roar then shreak]...". In fact, it was so bad that the always good humoured groom mentioned it later in his speech (through a much better microphone) at the reception when he reflected on the "vows we made to each other through that dodgy microphone".
The poor sound guy was struggling the whole time to make it work without feeding back, but the system (cheap, underpowered, badly installed) was always against him. There was nothing we could do but laugh about it.
Can somebody explain to me why we have to have such terrible sound at so many of our churches? If church meetings about at least partly about hearing God's word, then it seems a little silly to skimp on the very equipment which makes things (like vows, or a bible reading, or the words of a song) audible to lots of people at the same time.
I don't think it's an isolated problem. There must be something going wrong in terms of process for so many churches (with apparently the resources to pay for carpets, hall redevelopments, rectory upgrades and central heating) to end up with sound systems which plainly are not up to the task. What is going wrong, time and time again?
- - Is it a problem of process? (Perhaps a well meaning but unqualified parishioner taking control of the system and not allowing outside help?)
- - Is it a problem of the right consultants or suppliers? (I hear too many stories of companies with excess stock of a particular device offloading it at way too high prices to gullible churches)
- - Is it a problem of the brief? (I worked on one project where the system designer wanted to spend most of the money on choir mics...for a church that didn't have a choir)
- - Is it a problem of values? (I heard one minister describe how it used to be a source of pride for his church that they had a bad sound system - because it proved just how focussed on the scriptures they were, not the flashy show!!!)
On the flipside, I wonder - has anybody's church managed to get decent sound for their gatherings without taking out a second mortgage on the rectory?
Over to you, blogosphere....
*- not his real name, of course.