SALISBURY, Md. (BP) – A large blank canvas sits on an easel as Richard Pope, senior pastor of Canvas Church, begins his Sunday sermon. As Scripture unfolds, so does the image on the canvas, as Ali Jacobs uses her artistic talent and vision to paint a vivid picture most of us can only imagine. She brings the message to light with beauty and artistic flair.
Jacobs grew up in Baltimore County in a family of artists where she attended church and distinctly remembers feeling the presence of God with her. As she honed her artistic skills with study and work, God was continuing to hone her heart. One memory, from a youth retreat she attended as a leader, stands out. The pastor asked if anyone wanted to be baptized.
“As an adult at the retreat, I was embarrassed amongst all the students to raise my hand for baptism,” Jacobs said. “But I chose to do it. My decision to do so encouraged three other students to raise their hands as well. It was super encouraging to me to see.”
With a heart for the homeless, Jacobs and her husband volunteered at Anne Street Village, a transitional housing community, where they noticed several people wearing matching shirts in conjunction with Canvas Church’s “Blitz Day” community outreach. The next Sunday, they attended a service at Canvas, and in Ali Jacobs’ words, “We knew we had found our church home.” Soon, her painting ministry was born.
Once a month, sometimes twice a month, Jacobs paints the sermon while it is delivered. She typically knows the Scripture and sermon topic beforehand and takes time to pray and review the sermon notes.
“I have an image in mind going into Sunday morning,” she said, “but sometimes God takes me on a slightly different path as the sermon is preached.”
Pope said the church views Jacobs’ work as part of their worship.
“Her paintings help our people to engage with God, not just through what they hear in the music and preaching, but also through what they see!” he said.
Jacobs loves that members say they “feel” her paintings and say the painting helps them visualize the sermon, which allows them to understand the message of God’s Word better.
“It brings a blessing to my heart. It excites me to know my paintings help connect people to God,” she said.
Currently, the paintings are in storage at Jacobs’ home and at and the pastor’s house. Canvas Church rents its meeting space, so the paintings are set aside awaiting their next purpose, whether for the walls of a future building or sold with the proceeds going toward ministry. In God’s timing, Jacobs knows He will give clear direction for the use of the paintings.
“My prayer and hope are that as people learn of live worship painting, others will be encouraged to step forward to answer the call of being a creative visual artist,” she said.
Michelle Mackall is a freelance writer and serves as the administrative assistant for CrossLife Community Church and the Mid-Maryland Baptist Association.