It's 8:50 on a Tuesday night. A volunteer sits behind a rented lighting desk in the technical production control room on the fifth floor of the Worship Center. Color swells over the stage as two men sit relaxed in the blackness of a dark room, the subtle hum of equipment accompanying their discussion.
Art Davis presses a few buttons and looks up, eyes staring observantly through the glass to examine the lighting designs he and Mark Sims, minister of student music and the arts, create.
Rehearsal for Christmas by Candlelight has just ended, but the night is just beginning for Davis. He, in tandem with Sims, will spend the next two hours writing cues for each song in the show.
"I got part of one song last night," Davis says. "We had 40 or 50 cues last night, where we just did 10."
CBC, Shades' annual Christmas production, is in four days. Davis is halfway through a week during which he'll add 60 to 70 additional hours on top of his day job.
"This thing is done in building blocks," Davis says. "These are different positions we're going to want, these are different groups of lights," he adds, pointing to two computer screens that look so technical they could be a prop in a sci-fi movie.
Soft-spoken, Davis is the cornerstone of Shades' production volunteers. He figures this is his 17th or 18th year to do CBC.
"I've gone to church here since college, 35 years or more," Davis says, "but it wasn't until long after that that I got involved."
The process is no longer showing up on a Sunday morning to push a few faders up, and Davis seems to wear some of the years and hours as we speak.
He makes mention of events like this being a double-edged sword because with it comes greater wishes. Those greater wishes, however, are followed by higher expectations and longer hours.
"That's the trade-off anytime you get more equipment," Davis says assuredly.
When the conversation shifts from the process of a regular Sunday to the intensity of a week like this, Davis doesn't seem caught off guard.
He shouldn't be after that many years, of course, but he remains aware. Not in a skeptical sense, but in a way that he's come to understand this is what the week requires.
"That's exactly what it is," Davis says when asked if this week is a cram session for he, Sims and other member of the team, Tim Faulk.
"This is totally different," Davis says. "When we
do the Christmas show, the rental lights do have all the patterns and stuff
that we've got to worry about. New positions for everything, new color mixing
and all of those other things we don't have on a week-to-week basis."
By now, it's 9:35. Davis and Sims are stilling writing cues for "Away in a Manger." Looking to the right of the lighting station, there's a giant piece of white paper with the show order. Nine songs have check marks to the left, my assumption that the light cues have been completed. This song is the 10th; they're officially halfway done.
45 minutes seems to have passed rather quickly. Davis works at a methodical pace. Press a few buttons, look up to observe the cues, listen to another portion of the song and take instruction from Sims on the desired look.
As the designs come together, so does the story of the song.
Despite his subdued nature, a certain zeal for his craft is still evident in Davis. His story is evidence of a person being encouraged into service.
"Greg Vaughn was my Sunday school teacher and he got me started," Davis says. The memories jump to Davis's mind quickly as he speaks of days which many don't remember.
"Back when the Conference Center was the sanctuary, he got me started," Davis says. "At that time it was a tech person. You had a few light presets, the sound board and a reel-to-reel tape recorder to record the sermon."
Davis doesn't show any sign of understanding how this picture of member involvement is a homage to the larger idea of discipleship.
A conversation of interest triggered almost 20 years of service to a department and to a show.
10:00 has come and gone. The last few production staff members are leaving, walking out of a pitch-black room blanketed with a dark blue haze.
"I'm thinking I may retire from it before too long," Davis says with a sigh, "give the younger folks a chance to do it.
I do enjoy it. I enjoy the camaraderie. It's a great group of people to work with, and I've always enjoyed working with Mark."
Sims packs his stuff and departs, having promised himself to be in bed by 11:00.
Davis settles back into his chair, room still dark and equipment still humming.