River Oak Church started as an offshoot from another church around 20 years ago in a school auditorium. They were soon able to start a multi part building project, first building a gymnatorium, and later offices and classrooms. In 2020, the growing church broke ground on a new, purpose-built facility in Chesapeake, VA, to house their burgeoning ministry.
When Justin Fugett was tapped to help bring River Oak Church’s new facility to life in 2021, he understood the importance of the intercom system from his experience as a freelancer working with local broadcast organizations and universities. River Oak Church had an Encore Partyline system, and Justin knew they didn’t require the horsepower of a matrix-based system, yet they did need more than a simple partyline system if they were going to be able to grow their productions. River Oak was looking into getting wireless beltpacks to add to their system. The timing was fortuitous, as this is just when Justin was starting to hear about Clear-Com’s new Arcadia Central Station. Combining support for the industry standard digital wireless FreeSpeak II system, as well as integrating HelixNet Digital Partyline, 2W/4W connections, and Dante, Justin realized at once that Arcadia was the perfect fit for River Oak Church.
“Honestly, I feel like every church needs to know about Arcadia—it’s the absolute perfect fit for so many church applications. It has the flexibility and connections that we need, without the complexity of a matrix-based system. For an organization that gets a lot of their staffing from volunteers or part-time staff, Arcadia is an ideal combination of power, flexibility, and ease-of-use,” commented Fugett.
FreeSpeak II was Justin’s introduction to Clear-Com systems and was his “go-to” wireless solution for freelance projects. He knew that River Oak Church would need a FreeSpeak system, and the opportunity to incorporate Dante, HelixNet, and 2W/4W into a single central station with Arcadia was truly game-changing for this project. “I fell in love with FreeSpeak II during my time at Regent University, and now with HelixNet in the same box, it’s been really awesome,” said Fugett. “I love that I’m not stuck with the limitations of physical wire runs—with a network port I can put anyone on a HelixNet endpoint, wherever they need to be. And the camera people are now on HelixNet, which allows them to have a program feed in their ear, which they really appreciate.”
Another game-changer is Arcadia’s ability to interface with third-party Dante devices. With Arcadia on the Dante network, it is able to send or receive any feed within the audio network. For River Oak Church this means that the Service Producer and ProPresenter Operator can both hear and talk to the worship leader and MD through the monitor system, all interfaced via Dante. Fugett described a situation where having Dante in the intercom system helped significantly, “During baptisms, the mics have been known to get wet which can lead to bad or no audio for the sanctuary. The booth producer can now listen to the individual microphones directly from a wireless FreeSpeak beltpack, which has actually saved us on multiple occasions.”
The intercom system also includes the Clear-Com Encore analog partyline system, mostly used backstage, and there are future plans to bring in the latest FreeSpeak system, FreeSpeak Edge, to augment the system. Arcadia supports all these endpoints, making it easy to manage a cohesive system. “Several of us are able to easily make changes to roles at any time during services or rehearsals to suit each user’s needs”, said Fugett.
For River Oak Church’s growing congregation and evolving production goals, Arcadia offers a lot of possibilities for the future. “I’m intrigued by what features will be coming down the path for Arcadia moving forward,” commented Fugett. “HelixNet opened up a whole new world, and we’re excited by what the future will bring. Arcadia is just such a powerful and flexible platform—but simple to use—making it an obvious choice for River Oak Church, and I think a lot of other churches as well.”