The painting preachers


They preached . . . and they painted!

As early as 1960, theology students at the Australasian Missionary College were required to study the arts so they could produce visual aids for evangelistic programs and ministry. Morriss Kennedy, a lecturer at the time, was largely responsible for the initiative.

It was a good idea that they learned how to get a message across visually . . . Often a picture can say more than a few words can.

“He was an innovator,” says Rose-lee Power (pictured with a hand painted evangelism aid), curator of the Adventist Heritage Centre, which has a few of the paintings in its collection. “As an artist, he saw everything visually, so he wanted to teach others to see visually as well.”

The students found the class challenging but enjoyed the practice of painting, Ms Power explains. Some continued to create other works of art, but many resorted to hiring professional artists such as Mel Skinner.

Not all students were fond of the decision. Pastor Ross Goldstone, a retired Seventh-day Adventist minister who studied under Kennedy, believes that although some theologians may have the artistic skills to complement those in ministry, this is not universally the case. “I’m better with words than I am with a paintbrush,” he says.

Though now showing their age, the works produced by the artist–theologians in training were often conceptually unique and showed a vibrant creativity. “It was a good idea that they learned how to get a message across visually, because a lot of people are visually orientated and we tend to speak only in words and not in pictures,” Ms Power says. “Often a picture can say more than a few words can.”

Pastor Russell Kranz agrees. The retired minister, whose Bible lands watercolour exhibition was hosted by Avondale Libraries recently, was adamant art and Christianity go together. “The Bible is full of images,” he says.

Contact the Adventist Heritage Centre ( if you have items you wish to donate that relate to the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific.

Cameron Fletcher is a bachelor of Arts student at Avondale College of Higher Education.