Pamphlet: Acoustics in the Worship Space

Scott R. Riedel. St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, 32 pp.

This pamphlet provides an excellent and authoritative overview of the often overlooked subject of sound and acoustics in the worship space. Riedel begins by emphasizing that the "event" of worship is largely an aural activity and that the message of the gospel and the response of the assembled congregation all take place within a "sound" environment that can either enhance or detract from the whole worship experience.

The author then outlines five acoustical design goals and, in the most extensive section of the pamphlet, explains how to achieve them. Clear drawings and diagrams, along with nontechnical, easily understood language, help clarify basic concepts.

In the final section of this very useful pamphlet, the author makes one inaccurate statement. He promotes a central loudspeaker cluster over the pulpit, claiming it is the best way of ensuring naturalness and "point source" identification so that the sound seems to come from the preacher's mouth, not from the side walls or ceiling. The rather recent development of what are called "constant directivity" loudspeaker horns and their successful use in many church systems make this statement misleading and obsolete.

In spite of this one criticism, however, I strongly recommend this booklet as an introductory guide to building committees, pastors, and church musicians who are serious about making the sanctuary and its sound system fully support worship.

Harold P. Geerdes, professor of music (emeritus) at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, currently serves as an architectural acoustical consultant.


Reformed Worship 9 © September 1988 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.