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The power of Christ through art
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The corridors of Eastridge Community Church were transformed into an art gallery with oil paintings, watercolors, a handmade quilt, pottery, ceramics, photography, drawings, sculpture, paper mache and poetry — all in honor of Worship Arts Night held May 27.

The Rev. Scott Moore, senior pastor of ECC, said this was the first time the church had included things other than music on Worship Arts Night.

Members and guests poured into the exhibit area to view the many ways that God had revealed himself to the participating artists ranging in age from children to senior adults.

Chris Queen, ECC director of communications, worked closely with Monica Miller, interim worship director, to plan Worship Arts Night.

"In each of our worship nights, we try to be creative and offer new worship experiences," said Miller. "We believe that worshiping God can be much more than singing songs and we are just beginning to explore new ways of doing so. We wanted to offer this special night of worshiping through the arts to give our artists an avenue to share the creative and personal ways they worship our creator. Our goal was to explore, inspire and, of course, worship."

A sweet spirit of worship settled over the crowded auditorium as people filtered in to hear the music of Randy and Mackenzie Chester, known as 4 and 20 Blackbirds. The couple writes, sings and plays multiple instruments. Performing together since 1999 and married in 2003, worship is a way of life for them and goes beyond just making music.

"We see our music as worship to God — even in the songs that never mention his name," said Mackenzie. "Worship is not a certain phrase that we repeat or a particular style of music, but it is a life that is devoted to loving and knowing God."

Heavenly Dance Steps Director Debbie Nelson and three of her students ministered to the audience through interpretive dance. Nelson’s studio opened in 2000 when she followed God’s leading to use her love of dance and the training she received growing up to glorify him. With nearly 80 students and three teachers, Nelson’s goal is to teach the children to express their passion for Christ through dance.

Eight-year ECC member Angie Bryant completed a painting titled "Hosanna" while listening to 4 and 20 Blackbirds lead the congregation in the remaining four songs.

"When I am painting, I think about what God has done for me and what he has brought me through," said Bryant.

Other works of drawings, pottery and iron sculpture created by Bryant were on display in the exhibit area.

Sculptor Richard Sells challenged artists to ask God how he can use our talents to further his kingdom. Sells displayed an outdoor metal exhibit, "Gethsemane," that was first featured in an arts festival at the First United Methodist Church of Cumming, where he received honorable mention and a cash award.

"The evening was so hopeful because historically the church has been the greatest patron of the arts," said Sells who was instrumental in setting up the exhibit area.

Five-year ECC member Rosemarie Sells, a retired art teacher from Social Circle who serves on the board of the Monroe Art Guild, said she feels very connected to the creator through expressions of art. Inspired by nature and the beauty of homegrown items, Sells entered a watercolor of a red day lily as well as pottery likened to eggplants and begonias. From recycled material, she fashioned a white kitten using paper towel rolls, duct tape, a tide container and paper mache.

Kindra Spivey, a nine-year ECC member, held up her first hand-quilted work she started 25 years ago.

Four-year ECC member Daphne Cofer entered poetry and a painting, titled "Hope," that was inspired by attending Celebrate Recovery.

"The background of my painting is cloudy and muddy," said Cofer. It doesn’t matter how dirty and icky our past is – Jesus Christ is our hope today."

Two-year EEC member Craig Hinrichs stood next to his watercolor painting, "The Barn," and spoke of how Eastridge became home to him and his wife Susan when they moved here from Florida.

Hilda Hines, ECC member for three years, said that her son, Wayne, who also attends Eastridge, asked her to create an oil painting for him based on the Prayer of Jabez. A stormy ocean with waves breaking on the rocks depicts the storms of life. A calming in the distance illustrates a sense of peace that God is always there.

"My son told me that the Prayer of Jabez got him through some hard times," said Hines. "He wanted the painting to be the first thing he sees when he comes into the house."

Nine-year EEC member Sammy Ozburn who serves as chairman of the church’s Board of Elders admired each exhibit and lingered at the children’s table.

"It is amazing how we often fail to remember that God can be worshipped not just in song and ceremony, but in showing our talents to glorify him in many ways," said Ozburn. "The handiwork of these children is amazing to me. It is a very meaningful experience to come and look at these beautiful things that have been created to honor him. I commend everyone who took part in it."