Using a nib pen and ink from a well, Trey Everett is a reverend artist with ministry in mind as he sketches out thoughts about church life in goofy or edgy or beautiful images with words.
The Crookston, Minn., artist calls them "Holy Doodles" and has been displaying them in about a dozen churches in the Grand Forks region for the past year or so.
Some are provocative satires of how American Christians live and worship; some are winsome illustrations of God's love, the Grand Forks Herald reported (http://bit.ly/YuDl1u ).
His exhibit of 14 drawings, titled "The Discombobulated Church," has been showing at Mendenhall Presbyterian Church in East Grand Forks. After Easter Sunday he will pack it up and move it across the Red River to First Presbyterian in Grand Forks, where it will be on display April 7 to 21.
Then he's shipping them down to Minneapolis, where they will be on display in Knox Presbyterian Church May 1 to June 15. He's displayed his drawings in Lutheran and evangelical churches, too.
The Rev. Keri Shelton said the art has been a good thing in Mendenhall.
"It gets us discussing — is this the way church is, and the way it should be?" she said "It's really challenged us as a church to focus on what we do and how we can re-energize."
One of the more provocative drawings is of a straw-hatted "church lady," flogging an inert horse labeled "dead programs" while Jesus stands nearby, offering "ideas," ''new life" and "change."
But the complacent woman says, "No thanks, the way we've always done it works just fine," and keeps on flogging.
A 5-year-old boy at first thought the image "was scary," Shelton said. "But when somebody explained to him what it meant, he said, 'That's not scary, that's funny.' "
Far different is the drawing of a woman's luxurious head of hair under the verse about God numbering even the hairs of our head, with a text on God's compassion.
Everett is a former pastor of a conservative Church of Christ congregation in his home state of Missouri, which has left a little Ozark drawl in his voice.
Since 2006 he's been co-director of MICAH, the Minnesota Institute of Contemplation and Healing started by the Rev. Dan Wolpert, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Crookston.
Everett and his wife, Corene, and their three children finally joined the congregation last year after being active in it for years. Corene is on staff as a pianist and also works for the local high school as accompanist for the choir.
Everett's experience as a pastor wasn't all positive, which is reflected in his art.
"They wanted me to preach hellfire and brimstone," he said of the Missouri church.
Page 2 of 3 - Typical of much congregational life, there was a tendency to major in the minors.
"How they say you should stand behind the podium whenever you speak, or how the church ladies want the fellowship hall kept a certain way — things that aren't really important," he said.
The unusually broad mission of MICAH — an interdenominational independent non-profit group used by people of all faiths — fits his ministry, he said. For one, it allows him to devote a work day each week to his art.
In return, profits from his art go back to MICAH, which is supported by donations and fees.
Everett has no grand title for what he does. "I would just say I have a love for theology and spiritual things, and a love for art and this is combining the two," he said.
He is looking for more contemplative Christianity, not so much the kind that operates like a business, he said, with hallmarks of success seeming to be bigger buildings and parking lots, and more customers.
"I'm trying to help us think in a different way and to think more deeply. A lot of times the way to do that is to kind of catch people off-guard, so they see this image of the church and say, 'Whoa, let me think about that,'" he said. "So I'm really kind of trying to stir discussion."
The Rev. Jonathan Dodson said Everett's art was a hit in his congregation, Immanuel Lutheran in Plummer, Minn., where it was on display in the entry to the sanctuary last July.
People passed by it as they entered and left worship services, Dodson said.
"It went over really well," Dodson said. "I used them every week, too, during that month in my sermons, talked about one drawing each week. I would print it in the bulletin so you could look at it that day during the service."
Everett led the service one Sunday and talked about his art.
The drawings express complicated theological messages quickly in understandable ways, Dodson said.
"What's so great about Holy Doodles, if it's kind of a critique of the church, it really puts it out in a way that is accessible and also not offensive," Dodson said. "If I was to just preach it from the pulpit, people would take more offense." The drawings are "disarming, but have a great message," he said.
His confirmation students used Everett's work for Bible studies and many members bought large prints of his drawings, Dodson said. "They really enjoyed it."
Everett's done about 100 drawings the past four years, and published two volumes of "Holy Doodles: Cartoons to Contemplate."
While formally now a Presbyterian, he doesn't use denominational labels.
Page 3 of 3 - "I just think of myself as a follower of Jesus," he said.
Everett said he would like to spend even more time on his art.
Political cartooning inspires him with the graphic, succinct way it gets a message across instantly.
"I like to encourage people and help people to think, to spur them on to become better people."
He's looking for new ways to do that in drawing in church circles.
In June he and Wolpert will make a joint presentation to hundreds of Lutherans at an assembly in Moorhead.
Wolpert will speak while Everett will do a "graphic recording" of Wolpert's talk, illustrating it, live and in real time, on a large displayed page.
He's using the new medium more and more for his art.
"It's really amazing. People seem to pay attention better, looking at you draw," he said. "Afterward you put the sheet up somewhere, during the conference, and people can go back and reflect on it."