In April 2013, the Buildings and Property Council hired a lighting designer to look at the lighting systems of the Chapel, Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, Reception Room, and the Stained Glass Window. In August of 2013, the church asked for and received three bids to do all the work that was on the drawings. The Buildings and Property Council approved the smaller projects, the Chapel and the Reception Room, which were completed December 2013/January 2014.  The $200,000 for the Sanctuary alone exceeded our entire budget for all of the lighting work.  The new technology is expensive. The Sanctuary material list accounts for about 65% of the job.

The Issues

The cabinet of motors and gearsThe sanctuary lighting system is original to the building. It is a mechanical system, housed in a cabinet filled with motors and chains driving wheels that turn to dim or brighten the lights (picture right).  In 2012, one of the motors failed and needed to be replaced.Slide07b A replacement motor was not available at the local electrical supply houses and a local repair shop returned it marked “no repair.” A replacement motor was eventually found on eBay.  (Learn more about our current system.)

Slide13Most of the fixtures in the ceiling are not fully functional at this time. In the accompanying picture, one arrow (#1) shows both bulbs working.  Another (#2) shows no bulbs working.  One (#3) points to one bulb working while the final arrows (#4 and #5) show fixtures that are out and are also very difficult to get to.

Sanctuary Ceiling FixtureThe highest fixtures can be accessed from a catwalk in the attic, while most of the aisle fixtures can be reached with a lift.  However, some fixtures that are around corners or above the choir stalls in the chancel are particularly hard to get to.

Existing light fixtures are erratic and use expensive, short-lived 500-watt quartz bulbs that generate enough heat to wear out the sockets which then need to be rebuilt with new sockets.

The Solution

The proposal is to install LED (Light Emitting Diode) fixtures for the indirect lighting in the Sanctuary. Such a system would provide even lighting with cooler fixtures and considerable savings in energy costs. Currently there are LEDs in the Chapel and in the Reception Room of the church. LEDs can be arranged so that all the light comes out the front so there is no need to bounce light off a reflector which greatly reduces wasted energy.

LEDs are not as bright as incandescent bulbs individually, but if you line them up end-to-end across the ceiling and around the corners, they would put out equivalent light but in a more even manner so that the whole ceiling would have a consistent glow without all the hot spots that we have now.  Below are pictures from Old North Church in Boston that illustrate the lighting effect that can be achieved with LEDs.

The new cabinet would be less than half the size of the current cabinet and it would be all solid state with no chains or other moving parts.

With the current control stations, one must slide the handles up and down to get the lights the way you want them.  The proposed control system from Lutron is very flexible, expandable, and progamable.  Control stations are easily added using low voltage wire which communicate back to the master unit.  Slide24The control stations can be many buttons or just one button; it can even be a key switch.  Small versions of this Lutron system exist now in the Chapel and in the Reception Room.  Once everything is set up, pressing the appropriate buttons will cause the system to go to a particular preset scene.

“Not only do the LED fixtures consume one-sixth the energy of the previous incandescent system, they offer a projected source lifetime of 50,000 hours — up to 25 times longer than the previous light sources. Installing LED fixtures in place of the incandescent sources has cut energy consumption in Old North Church by nearly 85%.”


  • The existing sanctuary lighting system is approximately 45 years old.  Maintaining this system is becoming increasingly difficult.
  • Installation of a new LED lighting system would take two to three weeks, and worship would not be affected.
  • LED lighting fixtures last 25 times longer and, according to manufacturers’ literature, consume one-sixth the energy of incandescent bulbs.
  • Advances in technology will allow us, if we choose carefully, to install a system that  will look great, save energy, be user friendly, and last a long time.
  • Tours of the church’s lighting  systems are available by appointment.  Contact Bill Rusher.