Painting and Parables opens door to creative fellowship




JACKSONVILLE—When it comes to sharing God with other people, Rev. Will Wold is all about building relationships, especially in unconventional places. It’s one of the reasons he’s been such a champion of Fresh Expressions initiatives—Beer and Hymns, a bus stop ministry and Urban Soul—across the Florida Conference and at Mandarin United Methodist Church, where he serves as an associate pastor.

Two people share a table where they participate in a social painting event.
A recent gathering at Veterans United Craft Brewery in Jacksonville included an artistic interpretation of a Ukranian folktale. It was part of a new Fresh Expression developed by Rev. Will Wold of Mandarin UMC.

“People desire that authentic connection,” Wold said. “We’re naturally made to be together, and when you’re truly engaged, that’s when you’re truly living.”

That’s what he had in mind with Painting and Parables, a Fresh Expression he launched back in October that blends painting, storytelling, reflection and fellowship.

“I kept thinking, ‘How could you express God and story together?’” Wold said. “I enjoy art. I enjoy icons. I connect with stories, and I wanted to share that with other people.”

The idea was to get a group of people together at Veterans United Craft Brewery—a popular, low-key taproom in Southside—where they would listen to a parable, paint a picture related to the story and discuss some of its themes.

“It doesn’t scream church, but it does scream relationship,” Wold said. “And if you want to drink a beer, no one is going to look at you funny.”

He believes stories—those found in scripture and elsewhere—are some of the best vehicles for getting to know people.

“I think it takes you into something deeper,” he said. “It transports you out of your own consciousness.”

After a few weeks of research, Wold teamed up with Marina Davidson, a member of Mandarin UMC who owns and operates The Brush, a company that provides group-painting experiences, lessons and other services. Although the concept was new to her, she was excited to give it a try.

“It was the perfect way to combine my two favorite things, art and the Word!” said Davidson, who teaches art at a Catholic school in Jacksonville. “If they’re sitting there painting and listening to the parable, I think God can move in on that and nudge their heart. I think the Holy Spirit can come in and do his work.”

The parable Wold chose for the evening was a Ukranian folktale about two brothers who become estranged after an argument. One is rich, and one is poor, which adds to the hostility; and with the help of three magical giant pumpkins, these brothers learn some hard lessons about greed, compassion and pride. The picture they painted? Pumpkins, of course. As it turns out, Davidson is Ukranian—something Wold didn’t know at the time—and she was stunned when she heard his choice, but took it as just one more sign that they were on the right track.

Marina Davidson shows off her paint brushes
Marina Davidson, a member of Mandarin UMC, owns and operates a company called The Brush. Davidson said she was excited to give Painting and Parables a try.

“We had about 19 or 20 people who showed up to paint,” Wold said. “I think they really enjoyed hearing a parable they didn’t know (that was) from a different culture and trying to apply it to their life.”

Davidson, who would demonstrate a step in painting technique and then walk around assisting each painter, especially enjoyed seeing people of different ages and different walks of life come together to reflect on the story.

“There were some people who had never done that before,” she added. “They’re my favorite. I love it when they say, ‘I can’t do it,’ and then at the end, they come out with a beautiful piece of art.”

The evening also confirmed her long-held belief that anyone can be creative.

“God is the creator, and He made us in his image!” she said.

Wold and Davidson couldn’t generate enough interest for a Painting and Parables event in December and figured the Christmas season was the reason, and they are hopeful about the coming year.

“We want to do more of these,” Wold said. “We’re just going to keep experimenting. If it turns into something else, that’s beautiful. We just want to keep connecting people to the creative power of God.”

--Kari C. Barlow is a freelance journalist in Pensacola, Florida.
 

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