Seamless Technology in Traditional Sacred Spaces

Calvary began with a new organ, but eventually fulfilled a vision to enhance the entire appearance and technology of the sanctuary.

In 2011, Calvary Baptist Church of Denver was given the rare opportunity to purchase a high quality, well maintained pipe organ for $5,000. This organ, valued at over $750,000, was built in 1987 by the McManis Company, and featured 43 ranks of nearly 3,000 pipes and 43 stops.

Calvary's current organ was over 40 years old and had many challenges and limitations. With the purchase complete, the Sacred Space Renewal (SSR) project was born! Discussions began around many issues, including who should install the organ, what to do with our existing organ, and funding. One challenge was fitting the new organ into the existing organ loft, as the new organ had 800 more pipes.

Traditional Church Building Design/Sanctuary Renovation (Calvary Baptist Church of Denver)

Denver, Colorado
Project Size: 201-800 seats
Completion Date: May 22, 2016

Our solution was to display 27 of the largest pipes on the facade of the chancel. Another challenge was that the new organ console was too large to fit in the organ pit. We placed the new console on the chancel, with wheels to move it around. The old organ pit became "technology central" for our A/V, organ and electrical equipment.

During the conversations about the organ installation, the SSR Committee realized that Calvary was going to have to demolish quite a bit of the sanctuary facade just to install the new organ.  Since the chancel was already going to be in construction mode, the committee wondered what else we might simultaneously do to enhance our 50-year-old sanctuary. Brainstorming began, and what started as an organ replacement project became a vision that captured the imagination of the congregation.

We set a goal to upgrade and enhance the flexibility of our facilities in order to:

Improve the theological aesthetics of the chancel, bringing in light instead of darkness, while retaining its current
      feel with wood and stone suggestive of the Colorado mountains
Successfully integrate the new display of pipes into the chancel facade with new mill-work and grille cloth
Provide a technologically updated facility for worship, faith development activities, concerts and community
Attract new parishioners
Integrate Calvary further into our surrounding community
Enhance rental income

We developed a wide range of suggestions and started initial fund-raising to determine how much of our vision could become reality without going into debt.  It was critically important to only do work that we could pay for in the present, and not impact our operating budget.

Once we had an idea of our budget potential, we prioritized the ideas proposed for our sanctuary renewal. This extensive process mixed-and-matched many of the features we were seeking, to determine how we could achieve the most "bang for our buck."

As we evaluated the possibilities for our project, we selected partners with whom we would work on each aspect. Our SSR project was blessed throughout with the professional services of Morel and Associates Pipe Organs, Applebaum Architects, Art-Design Consulting, Fransen Pittman General Contractors, ADK Electric and Logic Integration. Together with our internal committee, they made a phenomenal team.

By mid-2015, drawings were done, contracts were let and work was ready to begin. On July 12, worship services moved to Fellowship Hall. Next, members of the congregation cut project costs by helping remove the old organ. We also engaged parishioners to coordinate several auxiliary projects, enhancing results at reduced expense.  These included putting wheels on the communion table; refinishing the cross to match the organ pipes; adding track lighting on the sides of the chancel, putting in LED bulbs, and redirecting many of the bulbs throughout the sanctuary instead of installing a complete new lighting system; and building a new sound booth. Additionally, when construction was complete, a crew of parishioners came through to renew the beautiful wood in our sanctuary and clean the pews, so that "opening day" would be a spectacular occasion.

Finally, in late January 2016 we were able to start worshiping in the sanctuary again, though the organ installation continued for several more months. The results were dramatic! Here are some of the concrete benefits gained from all the work and money invested:

A lighter, brighter sanctuary with organ pipes that draw our eyes upward to the beautiful stained glass window above
  the chancel
New lighter-colored grille cloth that can be removed in sections for cleaning or replacement
Decorative metal arches across the facade that replicate the shape of the baptistry arch and link the new organ
  pipes with the rest of the facade in a coordinated design
Better acoustics
Updated color scheme including new carpet complementing the narthex décor and painting the baptistry to
  harmonize with the stone and wood
A projector above the chancel, with a screen hidden below the chancel stained glass window that can be raised
  and lowered remotely, and a monitor mounted on the front of the balcony for viewing by those on the chancel
A new, improved sound system
A beautiful display of 27 of the largest pipes on the chancel facade
800 more pipes than the old organ
State-of-the-art organ technology, new wiring, a system to allow for easier use by multiple organists, foundational
  stops not available on our old organ, and horizontal trumpets in the balcony
The sound produced by the larger pipe organ more appropriately fills the sanctuary

Today, we enjoy the peace and beauty of our renovated sanctuary. Our congregation has better facilities for worship and faith development, and more attractive and technologically up-to-date surroundings to attract new members and retain current ones. Our pipe organwith the capacity to move us to sing, experience awe and wonder, and worship with joyfeeds our spirit.

Our sanctuary is a light and harmonious place to nurture our souls, sooth the stresses and cares of daily life, and enfold and support us in times of grief, joy or celebration. We are privileged to have been able to lift our dreams from the drawing board to an exceptional reality, both now and for future generations.

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