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Live painting lends a backdrop to church service

Paul Oman, an artist and pastor who tours the country and paints during church services, will be at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Twig on Sunday. (Photo by Neil Craigan)

Paul Oman was set up to paint a dinner theater backdrop on a 13-by-13-foot canvas at a Bible camp in his hometown when the production's choir began rehearsing.

"The painting came together as they were singing the story," Oman said.

That chance collaboration planted the seed of an idea.

More than 15 years later, Oman is known as a painting pastor who tours churches around the country and paints alongside choirs, Scripture readings and sermons. Oman, of Deer Park, Wis., will bring his latex acrylics to the 10:30 a.m. Sunday service at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Twig.

He will create a Lent-themed piece on a 5-by-7-foot canvas at the front of the church.

"I think it engages more of the senses for people," Oman said of live painting. "We are in a very visual culture and this visual culture understands things by seeing an image -- by looking at a phone or an iPad."

The Rev. Daniel Holm of Bethlehem Lutheran saw Oman's live-painting while he was at the Northeastern Minnesota Synod Assembly in May. He thought it would be a good fit for his home church, where he gets creative with services about once a month.

"It was so profound and great," Holm said. "It's intriguing and surprising. He's very artistic and good at what he does. People will be touched by the word of God through his drawing."

Bethlehem Lutheran Church will keep Oman's painting. He will be available afterward for a Q&A.

Holm said he hopes this kind of event will be synonymous with his church.

"That's our trademark. That we have something unique each month," he said.

Oman has been a teacher and a pastor. Art has been a constant in his life, he said. He's painted at churches, colleges, schools and retreats. Last year he traveled to Shanghai, China, and created a mural.

Oman said he works with a church to coordinate a theme for the service, including the music and readings.

"It's a shared lifting up of everyone's talents, a shared proclamation of the word," he said.

He knows what he will paint and how it will unfold when he gets in front of the canvas. He wears all black to keep the focus off him and on the image he is creating.

"My hope is that I'm invisible and they're watching off the end of my brush," he said.

Oman said painting links back to Jesus and his parables.

"He was creating an image in the minds of people hearing the story," Oman said. "I hope that's what goes on when I'm doing this. It creates an image and impacts lives."

If you go

What: Church service with live painting by Paul Oman

When: 10:30 a.m. Sunday

Where: Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twig, 6537 Industrial Road, Saginaw

Questions: Call the Rev. Daniel Holm, (218) 279-6005

Service: Open to the public

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