SBTC A/V consultant takes skills behind bars

HUNTSVILLE—When the sound guy for a gathering of 250 to 300 worshippers read in the TEXAN about the availability of worship technology ministry consultants, he knew that was just what they needed. Unpaid volunteers dealing with the occasional hiss and pop of the sound system could use the help of professionals like Rex Lake, an audio-visual consultant for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

On the day Lake showed up to assess the situation, over a dozen choir members gathered for practice along with the band featuring trombones, a saxophone, drums, keyboard, and acoustic, rhythm and lead guitars. The fact that they were all dressed alike had nothing to do with expectations of a worship leader. Their prison whites were normal attire for the Ellis Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville. 

“Worship that brings us to the point where we’re able to hear and receive what God says in his Word is every bit as important here as it is in the free world,” explained chaplain David Beaty. 

A handful of inmates volunteer to run the sound for the five or six prison chapel services each week, but one named Jim knew they could use some outside help. As a teenager in a Southern Baptist church he had volunteered with the audio-visual crew and later spent some time touring with a band. Not long after arriving at Ellis, he got plugged into using his skills in chapel.

But for guys like Ray, it was on-the-job training. “We learned hand-me-down from other sound guys and needed help understanding the real dynamics of where we’re at and where we need to go” to provide support for the worship services, he said. 

“In prison you’re all wearing white, and there’s an attitude that you can’t tell me what to do,” Jim explained. Even though that is kept to a minimum within the context of chapel, he joked, “Having Rex here to be the professional takes the heat off of me.”

Lake moved around the room, interacting with one instrumentalist at a time, listening to how he played. “I have to see how they’re working together as a band and then listen to the vocals,” he explained. 

“Everything he does here has an effect back there,” Lake said, pointing to the back of the room where the sound is controlled.  “Then we can work together as a team.”

Jim smiled as he watched the process come together, expressing appreciation for the help from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “This is a place where you can kind of get away from being in prison and just spend time with the Lord.”

With their outstretched arms interlocked with the men on each side, the choir members lifted their heads as their prayer time concluded. Together they shouted their purpose: “It ain’t about us. It’s about Jesus. One-two-three, Jesus!” 

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