A muslin canvas is stretched over a handmade frame, measuring about 5x7 feet. The artist, Paul Oman, sets the stage for us as we enter the chapel. What will he paint? What's the Bible story for tonight? How can he finish a painting within an hour's service?
Throughout the week, we have been gazing at the fruits of his labors, marveling at the details of murals painted while Bible stories are read and the music plays. What stories are represented in these paintings?
Paul said that he likes to ask the viewers what stories they see in the paintings. The answers can be very creative, especially if you weren't in attendance when he painted these murals. While I sat through services and listened to speakers this past week, I'd look at these murals and imagine myself inside the painting. The one with the fire is called Mount Carmel, and I see the great power of the Holy Spirit, coming in wind and flame to give you inspiration, courage, creative hearts, and love. The one at the sea makes me think of "Fishers of men (and women)." I also see the journey. The ships are beckoning me from my safe shore into unchartered waters. Where will my ship sail? When will my ship come in?
The creator and his art interacting. What do you see taking shape?
Small children are just below my photo frame (I wish I had lowered my viewpoint), heads on hands, glued to the action, mesmerized by art unfolding before their eyes.
First, a hand, then a face appear, and strokes of light and movement.
Paul said he was nervous about this painting. He said he was trying something new that was challenging him as an artist.
Do you hear words being whispered? Do you feel the emotions of this young woman? What will happen next?
I wanted a close-up of her face. Paul intentionally lets paint drip, to form tears, movement, and streams of light.
Paul and his painting.
I see the Holy Spirit with Mary, and Paul, filling them, inspiring them, and whispering...
Go. Create. Inspire!
Paul said that he began drawing around the age of 10. He originally went to college to be a veterinarian. He ended up being a science teacher, and said that he continued to use art to learn and to teach. He felt called to the ministry and became a pastor. He was in a small parish, attendance was low during Lent, so he took a risk with a vision that he'd had - to paint a mural during a worship service while the lessons were read and songs and hymns played and sung. The first year, he had his usual 40 attendees. The next year, 200 people showed up. When he did it again, 400 people came to the service. Soon, he was sharing it with other congregations and at Mount Carmel family camp where I first saw him paint, four years ago. This May, he resigned from his safe and secure pastor job, and embraced his true calling, Mural Ministry. He has bookings through next Easter. To learn more about Paul Oman, his art, and his ministry, go to his website. He wants this experience to be available to everyone, no matter the size of your congregation, or where you live. They'll help you find creative ways to bring him in.
Journaling Prompt: What do you see in Paul's Paintings? Have you ever witnessed art evolving in front of your eyes? If you took a leap of faith, where would you go? What would you be doing?