Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fire in the pulpit - not what you think

Many have asked about some issues we had during the first service at 8am this past Sunday, Nov. 8. Here are more details then you ever wanted to know.

We have an old lift mechanism that raises and lowers our pulpit up and down. It uses a motor attached to a gear block that turns a screw that raises or lowers a platform attached to a ball nut. It was installed in 1986 and has needed more and more maintenance as of late.

On Sunday during our morning sound check we raised and lowered the pulpit as we normally do to ensure everything was working properly. That was around 7:30am. The service started with the pulpit down. At 8:20am we attempted to raise the pulpit for a testimony and nothing happened. About that same time we smelled something burning. We cut the power to the motor and the testimony continued using another mic on stage. The problem with cutting the power was that it also cut out several of the stage outlets used for various instruments.

Meanwhile the burning smell was getting stronger for those of us in the sound booth at the back of the room. Those on the stage and in the front rows, including our pastor, thought something was really on fire. Once we got into the next worship set, minus a few instruments, the pastor came back to ask us if we were safe. By this point we had got the sound room fire extinguisher out and had a few backstage ready to go. We assumed that cutting power would prevent a fire but due to the smell we wanted to make sure. The safety of those in the auditorium was our first priority.

We setup a temporary podium for the preaching portion and the service continued as normal. While pastor was preaching we started coordinating our plan of attack for resolving whatever we could between services. Everyone had an assignment as we only had about 10 minutes to get power restored and try to raise the lift, or go to plan B. We had staged tools and extension cords and were ready to tackle whatever problem we found in the lift pit.

Once the service ended we opened up the stage and found the motor burned up, the smell horrible, and the mechanism blocked by the pulpit which was still stuck lowered into the floor. Plan B went quickly into effect with musicians and everyone pitching in to run extension cables and get power restored. The next 2 services probably didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

Later Sunday afternoon we tore the whole thing apart, go the pulpit out and found that the limit switch that is supposed to shut the motor off once the switch is tripped failed to operate so the motor was continuously running from 7:30am until we finally cut power 50 minutes later. We pulled the motor out of the pit and the paint on the housing was burned, and yes, it still stunk. We removed the power and from an appearance perspective all is back to normal on the stage at Faith. The pulpit lift is locked in the up position and plans are underway to either repair what we have or to start over from scratch, lift, pulpit, and all.

I remember thinking around 8:10am that things were going well and it was an easy morning. That’ll teach me. Who says ministry can get boring?