Pastor uses art to project faith

Pastor uses art to project faith
Scott Daniels

Pastor John Wallace stands near a new exhibit, which makes use of blank wall space just inside the church entrance.

                        

Dover First Moravian turns faith to art as parishioners arrive to see the interpretations of numerous artists every Sunday. It began when Pastor John Wallace asked the question, “What does Jesus look like to you?”

A new exhibit, which makes use of blank wall space just inside the church entrance, is divided into categories. Compassion, longing, joy, glory and welcome all came to the forefront as members with an artist’s eye tried to visualize what they felt about the face of God and get it onto canvas.

“When you come into the building and stand here, you kind of interact with the wall, really,” Wallace said.

The church’s longtime pastor sent out the invitation to create the wall after getting the idea from the book, “Encountering Jesus Through Art,” by Beth Booram.

Remembering a series of paintings by Moravian artist John Velente Haidt in the 18th century, Wallace thought the large, blank wall in the church entryway was just the spot to put such a thing together.

Wallace offered up the suggestion to the congregation in November. Twenty members of First Moravian answered the call for artists, and the church supplied canvasses.

“I gave each the choice between two emotional expressions to use and allowed them to choose any school of painting they wanted. Expressionism, cubism, realism, it was up to them,” Wallace said. “I wanted to have the paintings ready for the beginning of Epiphany.”

The resulting 17 images were placed within categories with the help of the congregation. In addition several drawings made by the youngest members of the church family were included, which depict the face of Jesus as they see it.

Painters from age 8-80 participated in the project. The paintings include images depicting events described in scripture, one of a soldier in uniform, a football player and the newly heart-warmed Grinch of Dr. Seuss fame.

“I’ve been trying to introduce art into worship here at the church,” Wallace said. “It’s something that I do myself. I’m not a musician, but I do love art.”

Wallace himself produced some images for the wall, which could stand in for missing pieces in the event one of the artists is unable to complete a project.

Some time ago Wallace said he brought an artist into the worship service to paint a picture as the service progressed. “It was really fun because everyone was kind of glued to what the artist was doing. I don’t think anyone would have noticed had I just stopped the rest of the service. And that’s what art does. Art can really bring something out in people. I think it’s sad when art programs get cut from schools because art can really be an expressive thing as well as a release of feelings.”

Wallace said he would be delighted if other congregations in the area borrowed the idea. “Yes, we wold love to see something like this catch on. We’ve found it to be a great way to involve the congregation in worship in a new way. I hope other churches can use something like this with their own church family. It has been a really great experience for us.”

The images hang just inside the main entrance to the church building at 319 N. Walnut St. Their website is at www.doverfirstmoravianchurch.org.


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