LaGrange College Student Paints NGUMC Churches for Senior Exhibition


By Ansley Brackin
Communication Specialist for The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church

Senior Fine Arts Major, Sarah Gordon, of LaGrange College paid homage to The United Methodist Church by using several of the North Georgia Conference’s churches as her subjects for her senior exhibition.

Gordon explains in her artist statement that her emphasis was “more of a personal history than an objective observation.”

Most of the chosen churches are in some way spiritually woven within her family lineage.

“Each church is a part of her family’s faith journey,” says LaGrange College’s Director of Student Ministries, Rev. Blair Tolbert, who speaks highly of Gordon’s 3 years of service as Wesley Fellowship’s president.

One of the paintings is of Belvedere UMC in Decatur. Although the church recently closed and its building was sold, it is the home church and wedding location of Gordon’s mother.

“Since the future of the sanctuary remains uncertain, I wanted to preserve its campus the way I remember it,” the artist explains.

The family relishes memories of attending Belvedere’s homecomings year after year.

Out of similar intentions, Gordon also painted Mt. Zion UMC in Carroll County after its steeple was damaged by lightening. Anticipating a renovated steeple and narthex, she wanted to preserve the memory of its current structure.

Mt. Zion is the home church to several generations of Gordons.

“I am related to almost everyone who attends Mt. Zion,” she says, “and I have even more family buried in the cemetery.”

The cemetery where the graduate’s grandfather rests is a prominent piece in her landscape of the church grounds.

While she painted Mt. Zion UMC and Belvedere UMC as a method of preservation, Salem UMC of Covington has no plans of changing. Gordon compares the magic of Salem Campground to that of a spiritual “time machine.” She affectionately describes the campground atmosphere.

“The floor is sawdust and the old rusty fans do little to cut the heat, but there's no place like Salem to renew my faith,” she said.

Gordon grew up a city over from Salem UMC in Conyers, where her art teacher, Emily Young, taught her that “learning to paint is like learning to see again”. Having latched onto painting and drawing at the age of five, the young artist could not imagine picking any major other than fine art.

Her painting of Allen Memorial UMC is not an illustration of the past, but of what is coming for Gordon and her fiancé. She will marry a fellow LaGrange graduate, majoring in religion, in Oxford this July. The couple wanted their ceremony at a church that served as a half-way point between where her parents live in Athens and where his live in Newnan while staying within the United Methodist family.

After the wedding they plan to move to Durham, North Carolina where Gordon’s fiancé will attend Duke Divinity School to become a hospital chaplain. Gordon dreams of one day having a studio to paint for a living, but regardless of where she lands vocationally, she will continue to paint for the love of the art.

“I'll never stop painting,” she says. “Once a passion for creating gets in your blood, it's awfully hard to stop.”

As Sarah Gordon moves on from LaGrange College, her works of art will serve as handmade snapshots, preserving these United Methodist churches for generations.