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God in the Visual Arts Worship Summer Series at Willow Grove Church

God in the Visual Arts is the summer series at Willow Grove Presbyterian Church in Scotch Plains. Credits: Danielle Hale
Willow Grove Presbyterian Church

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- One reason churches exist is that the hunger for beauty will not go away. This summer, the congregation of Willow Grove Presbyterian Church, along with their pastor, The Rev. Cynthia Cochran-Carney, will explore connections between a variety of paintings and biblical stories.

The series starts June 26 and runs through September 3. Sparking people’s imagination is really the point.

“Jesus used visual symbols and stories to convey deeper truths and move people toward lives of faith, love, and compassion – a mustard seed, a sheep, a loaf of bread. Artists invite people to see with new eyes.  When certain biblical images seem too familiar, looking at a painting of that same image or story can have a profound impact on people’s spiritual lives,” said Rev. Cochran-Carney.

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“Explicitly connecting the arts with people’s faith is always a sound idea. The arts inform all aspects of our lives, including our spiritual lives. The Willow Grove congregation offers opportunities to worship God in ways that creatively engage people's hearts and minds.”

For 11 weeks this summer, all those who come to worship may see familiar and less well known paintings with new eyes.  Some of the stories and artwork from “God in the Visual Arts” series include: Jacob’s ladder from the book of Genesis with the painting “Jacob’s Dream” by Marc Chagall; The Last Supper with the painting ‘Last Supper” by Tintoretto; and the parable of the prodigal son along with the painting “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt. The series will include artwork from a variety of cultures. 

On August 6, the focus will be on the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana with the painting “Wedding at Cana” from an artist collective named JesusMafa in North Cameroon in Africa. Each Sunday’s worship theme is a painting and scripture passage.

In addition to Sunday worship services, the congregation invites the community to a trip to Princeton University Art Museum on a Sunday afternoon in August.  The date will be announced by early July.  Members of Willow Grove Church who have a background in art history will lead a tour of some of the Christian Renaissance art in the European galleries. 

The congregation looks forward to adults, youth and children of the community coming to this summer series, which runs through September 3. Worship services are held on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. with refreshments served after the service. On the last Sunday of each month (June 26, July 30 and August 27), the worship service will take place at 5:00 p.m. with dinner at 6:00 p.m.

Willow Grove Presbyterian Church is located at 1961 Raritan Road in Scotch Plains, diagonally across from the Southside Firehouse. All services take place in air-conditioned Alexander Hall with activities provided for children. For more information, visit, call 908-232-5678, or contact  

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