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Phil Irish, Puddicombe - edited cropped The Art in Worship ministry at New Life Christian Reformed Church intentionally incorporates a variety of artistic expressions into its worship experience. An element of this ministry are the regular exhibits of visual art on the walls of the northeast Guelph church’s sanctuary.

“In a sense we’re crafting a multi-sensory worship worship space,” says worship ministry coordinator Nicole Ensing in a media release announcing the most recent exhibit: The Temple Project

What’s unique about The Temple Project exhibit is that it features the work of nine students in Redeemer University College’s “intermediate painting” class. Six of the students and painting professor Phil Irish (pictured above) were on hand on Sunday, June 7 for a reception following the regular worship service.

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Redeemer University College art student Jessica Puddicombe talks about her art.

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Tristan Kaarid talks about his piece “The Carpenter and the Universe”

“Their task was simple and open: reflect on the connotations of the word ‘the temple,’ and create an oil painting that brings size, materiality, imagery, and visual language to bear on the theme,” writes Irish in a brochure explaining the project.

At the reception, he expanded on that statement, describing the various techniques the students used to bring the theme to life. The students were also given a chance to describe the journey they took in creating their works.

The art is stunning. Bethany Kenyon’s abstract “Immanence” combines gold leaf and oils. Irish explained how Maria Wagler used a pour technique for “Reaching,” a work my wife said was her favourite of the exhibit.

I was particularly struck by Nathasha Van Gurp’s work “Boundless.” The deep, rich colours used in her landscape captured the vastness of God she wanted to depict.

“My portrayal of the ‘temple’ is centred on the idea that His temple exists through all of creation as everything is created by Him and done in and through Him,” Van Gurp explains in a note accompanying the painting.

I came away with a couple of take-away thoughts that morning.

First: the willingness of New Life CRC to incorporate visual art as part of its worship expression. I’ve had the chance to see the works of at least three different artists at New Life CRC and have been moved by each.

“Our goals are to integrate visual arts more purposefully into congregational worship, and to create a space to host the art of our extended community” says the exhibit brochure. This is a model other churches might be interested in exploring and replicating.

Second: the sheer joy of witnessing a new generation of artists who have responded to that divine calling to express their faith in art.

“The opportunity to show art is second only to the opportunity to glorify God,” says Tristan Kaarid in the media release. “The capacity of art to represent the godly in creation is uncanny. To me, the calling to create art is of utmost importance.”

And just as significant was the welcome of both the art and the artists by the receptive congregation.

“We’re so pleased to finally host students of the Redeemer art department,” says Ensing. “This has been a goal of ours for a number of years.”


The Temple Project exhibit continues until June 14. For details and contact information go to http://www.newlifecrc.net