Is hope yet alive during these difficult times in America and around the world?

In the midst of a growing pandemic, what does hope look like when it’s difficult to even attend church? An artwork challenge to the parishioners of Grace Church in the Mountains in Waynesville led to a remarkable exhibit now available for all to see on the church website.

“History has had many dark and difficult times,” said retired art teacher Marie Shaginaw, a member of Waynesville’s Grace Church in the Mountains. “I have wondered how people managed to keep going through life-changing events. As I looked for answers, I found some remarkable evidence. In hard times, my parents and their parents had an unwavering dependence on reading their Bibles. Words of comfort, words of strength, encouragement, patience, and trust in God’s plan were read daily, and carried them through the days until change released them.

“Many found comfort in writing beautiful, creative poetry. Others found relief through expressions of art. Even in the darkest halls of concentration camps, music was composed and performed. Such was the armor used to fight against the darkest days of our past.”

With these thoughts, Marie presented the creative idea to the parishioners of Grace Episcopal. During the month of October, those willing to accept the challenge were given a 9x12 inch sheet of blank art paper. They were encouraged to spend time in quiet meditation and listen for God’s words of hope through verses in the Bible, images of nature, poetry, or a story. And then, contemplate how to share hope with others.

“The artwork may be anything you can do,” she said. “Something from nature, religious symbols, something that inspires the heart to continue. It might be drawings about the page, words of wisdom you have to offer, a poem that you have written, a Bible verse that has always given you hope and comfort, a prayer of your own, a photograph, however you might share hope with others. Then, using watercolors, chalk or oil pastels, colored pencils, colorful markers, pen and ink, photography, or the printed word, illustrate Hope during our challenging days.”

“I’ve proclaimed and believe that hope is a gift that God gives each person,” said Rev. Joslyn Schaefer, rector of Grace Church. “But in hard times, it sure is wonderful to see evidence of that spiritual hope. These works of art are testimonies to a deep hope that isn’t dependent on external circumstances but comes from within. They have buoyed my spirit and reminded me that hope is alive and available to each of us as we receive each other’s gifts of creativity.”

Sue Shirley heads up the Grace Arts Ministry. “On a personal level, art feeds my soul,” she said. “It makes space for expressing as well as transcending the present moment. Creating and viewing art helps me to pay attention to the still small voice that leads me to become aware of God past, present and future. It brings me hope in this world of immense suffering.”

The 40 creative and varied works of art have become a remarkable slideshow available now for everyone to view on the church website: www.gracewaynesville.com.

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