Thank you for participating in our final Worship Space Experiment this past Sunday. As you know, one goal of these experiments has been figuring the acoustics of the sanctuary, which are complex. It can be hard to hear in some parts of the church, but in other parts, you can whisper and be heard across the room. Putting our choir in the right place, where they can be heard, is important. That was the main goal of this week’s experiment.
To experiment with that, this week we had the choir sit at the top of the chancel steps, facing the congregation. Since this is where the altar usually is, we put the altar at the bottom of the steps. However, based on feedback from previous experiments, we also put it up on a platform for better visibility. We wanted to experiment with what it would be like for the altar to be on a low platform, closer to the congregation.
Once again, you gave great feedback. Most people liked having the choir closer and face the congregation, and felt that they could hear the choir much better. However, a solid minority (about 1/3 of responses) did not like having the choir in such a visually prominent location. They said “I felt like the choir was singing at us rather than with us” and that it “distracts from the liturgy sitting directly behind the altar”. Several noted that in a “real” setup, we would not have the choir this high up behind the altar, but we couldn’t do anything about lowering the altar steps in this experiment.
However, the vast majority agreed the sound was better with the choir in this location, even if they didn’t like the visual distraction. A few noted that the choir actually sounded better in the balcony (in our September experiment), but this position was second best and better (for sound) than their usual position in the choir pews. “I don’t think it’s quite as striking as up above, but better” was a typical comment.
About 90% of respondents liked the altar closer to the congregation and on a slightly raised platform. Comments included “can hear and see better” and “more warm and welcoming and connecting with the clergy and readers closer to the congregation”. One person said they preferred the altar in its usual location. Several folks noted that the rental platforms were not the ideal size (unfortunately they only come in one size) and wondered if even a custom-built platform might have logistical difficulties.
All of this is great data for our discussions, which will continue at the Annual Meeting on Sunday. One thing we are going to do on Sunday is ask you and your table-mates to draw what you think the church should look like, based on what we learned from the worship space experiments. So put your thinking caps on and bring your ideas to Annual Meeting!