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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Emmanuel Luteran Church's Pastor Thomas Eggold, with his wife, Sonya, collaborated to create a series of prints by Thomas inspired by his wife's photography. The art will be part of an upcoming exhibition titled “A New Creation.”

  • Limited edition prints by Eggold include, clockwise from top left, “Saguero,” “Rescued,” and “Blood of Christ,” and will be on display at the church.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019 1:00 am

Praising by painting

Pastor's sabbatical led him to using art to inspire church

Blake Sebring | For The Journal Gazette

Just like the rest of the world, Emmanuel Lutheran Pastor Thomas Eggold and his wife, Sonya, were riveted by the coverage of the April 15 Notre-Dame Cathedral fire.

The scene of the classic building's destruction was personal for the Eggolds because they had just visited the site three weeks previously. They had moved on from Paris and were watching the fire from Passau, Germany.

“We went through Notre Dame in a mob of people, but what struck me about our visit was that in the mob were not only Christians, but also Buddhists, Muslims, atheists ... all drawn to this overtly Christian place,” Eggold said. “For me, it was a real lesson in the power of presence that a church has in a community.”

The Eggolds have learned a lot recently about the power of a church building and the impact it can have on a community. During a five-month sabbatical that started the day after Epiphany, Jan. 7, they visited the American southwest before flying to London where they traveled to England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria.

The goal – along with visiting nearly 100 churches – was to rekindle their spirits but also Thomas Eggold's lifetime love of art. While his wife took thousands of pictures and did some writing, Eggold found inspiration through printmaking and painting.

That's where sharing in the community comes in. Some of the results of the Eggolds' trip will be displayed at Emmanuel, 917 W. Jefferson Blvd., starting 1 p.m. Sunday until Sept. 8, the last day of the West Central Home and Garden Tour. Artists from the church and the community will participate in the exhibit, “A New Creation,” which comes from 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Eggold, now 49, grew up with art in his home thanks to his mother Kathy, an artist who always encouraged creativity in her children. In fact, Eggold attended Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, not to become a teacher or a pastor but as an art major. It was only after his career plans changed and he came to Fort Wayne as a teacher and director of Christian education that he attended the local seminary. He's been at Emmanuel for 23 years after doing his field work and vicarage there.

“There have always been periods in my life where I wanted to do more with art, so when an opportunity for a sabbatical came along, that's what I wanted to focus on,” he said. “To have the time to do it ... it's just hard for anybody in the course of a busy life. What I hope will be the greatest benefit will be coming back and really making art an ongoing part of my life, an ongoing source of renewal for me and the congregation.”

Eggold said he has hundreds of ideas he wrote into a journal, and said he's totally rejuvenated and excited to get back.

“What I have experienced and what I hope others understand is that whatever the outlet is, whether it's writing or visual art, music, decorating or cooking, that we are wired to be creative, and that creative process, whatever it is, I think speaks to eternal things,” he said. “God works through this. The whole doctrine of vocation is an amazing thing, a very Lutheran idea, that we are all given gifts to use in this world. I think what I want people to see is that they also have ways to do the things that God has given them the gift to do.”

The Eggolds returned from Europe on April 30 before spending some time in Montana. Their first day back in Fort Wayne was May 28, and the Emmanuel staff celebrated by posting “Silver Alerts” around the office asking for help locating their missing leader. They were very artistic.

Thanks to the artwork they saw, the Eggolds came back refreshed.

“The churches were all just amazing in the variety and diversity of the artwork we saw, both old and new, and how art serves to proclaim the message of the gospel,” Eggold said. “That was an awesome thing to see, and I have all kinds of ideas coming back for involving the talents of the congregation in this visual proclamation.

“The whole concept of renewal through artistic expression, that's what I want this to be for our congregation. It gives us so many ways to witness. We're going to experience this whole thing together. I'm excited to see where this goes and the fruit that comes from it.”