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First Christian Church

Thomas S. Friedman • InstallationsNovember 2019 • November 13, 2019

The church now features a NEXO GEO M10 line array rig.

Versatile, Flexible System Handles Worship and Community Events

The term “multi-use venue” is common among houses of worship and a perfect example is First Christian Church (FCC) in Kernersville, NC, more accurately described as a “gymatorium” by worship pastor Drew Grounds.

Founded in 1987 by senior minister Dr. Pete Kunkle, FCC has a thriving, active congregation and continues to grow. In addition to regular services (three on Sunday and one mid-week), FCC is also the community civic center hosting fitness classes, youth events, graduations and even the occasional touring concert, drawing top CCM performers such as Ricardo Sánchez.

Designed by Winston-Salem-based Landmark Builders, this 95,000 square foot family life center includes a 1,000-seat gymnasium/worship room with permanent stage, large pre-function area, high school regulation basketball court, two volleyball courts, 25-meter swimming pool, 0.10-mile running/walking track, a large commercial kitchen with adjacent dining room, and numerous large classrooms.

While the ministry certainly lives up to its nickname, such diversity requires a church sound system that is adaptable and flexible enough to cover any live sound production.

ON Audio Visual Solutions (ONAVS) LLC — a full-service audio, video and lighting design and installation company based in North Wilkesboro, NC — teamed with NEXO to design and deliver a sound system capable of meeting the array of needs faced by FCC and Grounds every week.

Besides serving as a 1,000-seat worship space, the “gymatorium” at FCC is used for community events, concerts and basketball games.

‡‡         The Challenge

During his 10 years at FCC, Grounds — also an accomplished musician in his own right — has seen the church’s audio capabilities completely change. “When I first arrived, sound wasn’t a priority,” he recalls. “They were happy to just have speakers on pole-stands and call it a day.”

The church did eventually step up to a commercial sound system, but due to the space’s wide and unconventional configuration, “the speaker placement was weird, and the sound was super-harsh,” Grounds says. “We were never able to tune them properly and push the right amount of sound pressure through to get the volume we needed without people just perceiving it as being loud all the time.”

A second upgrade to a new system offered some improvements, “but there still was a harshness,” he says. “It’s just not an acoustically treated room.”

Worship pastor Drew Grounds

‡‡         The Solution

FCC worked with audio consultant Myron Surber at ONAVS, who suggested a NEXO system as the ideal solution. A demonstration soon convinced Grounds he had found the right system for his gymatorium.

“We needed a system that would sound pleasing to everyone’s ears but also deliver enough range to handle our growing musical diversity, alternating between heavy contemporary multi-piece rock bands, to subtle bluegrass, to traditional 50-70 member choirs,” he says.

In July 2019, the church installed NEXO’s GEO M10 compact line source system with four LS18 bandpass subs built into the stage.

“The demos sounded great, but it’s always hard to tell when they’re not in the actual space,” he says. “Once they were installed, I instantly noticed the change. The biggest difference was the smoothness I perceived in the room.”

Concert performers at FCC have included top CCM artists such as Ricardo Sánchez.

‡‡         The Results

FCC’s members range from young children to the elderly and “everyone has an opinion on what good audio sounds like,” Grounds says. In the few months since the NEXO installation, the improvements are already clear to everyone, satisfying even the toughest critics in the room.

“You really can’t tell these are new by looking at them — to the casual observer they are just black boxes,” he says. “But after the first Sunday service we did with the NEXO speakers, an older member came to me and asked, ‘What have you done? That is the most fantastic sound I’ve ever heard in my life, it sounds so smooth.’ I almost passed out when he said it because that was my exact reaction.”

NEXO’s Geo M range is one of the only line source systems on the market to use multiple vertical dispersion options and horizontal dispersion to fit the needs of any space. In the case of Geo M10, NEXO offers an M1012 (12° vertical) and an M1025 (25° vertical), while also allowing the horizontal coverage to easily be adapted to 80° or 120° using NEXO’s patented configurable directivity device.

“These speakers give overall coverage that’s better suited to this specific space,” Grounds explains. “We’re running things hotter now than before, because the frequencies that were so hard to manage in our older systems are not a problem with these speakers. The 1025 downfills evenly cover the front section where we had to use front fills before. Plus, we can properly adjust them so people up front aren’t blasted out of their seats by a wall of sound. The NEXO system covers the room in a lovely way.”

‡‡         What’s Next?

Expansion is definitely in the plans for First Christian Church. The ministry is building a 600-seat satellite campus to complement the main building, which will continue to expand its level of productions. Grounds is confident the NEXO system will keep pace with the church’s growth, easily scaling up or down to match any production.

“I don’t see us having to upgrade loudspeakers for a long time,” he concludes. “We now have a commercial sound system that handles anything we do on Sundays or during the week. The NEXO system just sounds fantastic.”

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