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Man uses paint to deliver sermon

April 11, 2006|by MARIE GILBERT

MAUGANSVILLE - The Rev. Neville West will use whatever means he can to deliver a sermon - even a paintbrush.

Standing before a congregation or audience, his message flourishes on canvas, and flourishes quickly.

In less than 30 minutes, he can complete a painting that tells a story.

But West doesn't want people to be in awe of his artwork.

"I want them to understand the message," he said.

A resident of Waynesboro, Pa., West appeared Monday morning at a meeting of the Mack Golden Bulldogs.

During the meeting at the UAW Union Hall on Maugans Avenue, the retired pastor demonstrated his talents to more than 100 people.

As the "1812 Overture" played in the background, West completed in 20 minutes a patriotic painting called "America the Beautiful."

A native of England, the evangelist said he wanted to share with the audience how much he and his wife appreciate the United States, which they now call home.

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The painting and the recitation of an original poem "come from the heart," he said.

West, who was born in Staffordshire, England, said he showed a talent for music and art at a young age.

"My father was an artist, so I guess I come by it naturally," West said.

By the age of 14, West had a traveling art exhibit for Midland Red, a British transportation company. At 16, he became a decorating manager for an English china factory.

"But I had a calling to the ministry," he said.

West entered Elim Bible College in London and, following graduation, became pastor of churches in Romford, Essex and Bognor Regis, Sussex.

In 1955, he made his first visit to the United States as part of an evangelistic team.

He made his second visit to the U.S. in 1963 as an evangelist, musician and artist, traveling to more than 42 states and Canada.

Eventually, he and his wife, Pat, a pianist, decided to live in the U.S.

West said he has served as pastor for churches with the Congregational Christian Churches, Church of God General Conference and the Assemblies of God.

While he no longer is a full-time pastor, West said he continues to work as an evangelist and shares his artwork at programs and meetings sponsored by churches and organizations.

West said he became interested in combining art with his ministry after attending a church rally at Royal Albert Hall in London.

"I saw a Canadian evangelist paint a picture as part of the rally and thought maybe this was something I could do," he said. "The rest is history."

West said his paintings are a way of encouraging people to attend services, "but there is also a purpose to the artwork. I don't just paint. I preach."

With a love of the ministry and a love of art, West said he feels fortunate to be able to combine both in his work.

"I'm a happy Christian with a crazy sense of English humor," he said. "And so far, people seem to enjoy that."

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