Faith in technicolour

When Lorien Atwood uploaded a few of her decorated scripture verses into a Facebook conversation with a few friends, she was simply explaining the kind of visual decorative work she did in her private journal as part of her quiet time.

The last thing she expected was to receive 100 emails within a couple of days, all asking for copies of what she had done. Slightly stunned, she set up a Facebook group to have a quick method of uploading the artworks and within days that also began to grow, with more and more people keen to get hold of the verses – surrounded in her intricate black and white designs – to colour in, in a range of personal and group ministries.

Now, less than four months later, the group’s membership has topped 4200 and Atwood is about to publish Meditations, a book containing 18 of her hand-drawn designs around a range of Scripture verses.

“God’s been driving the project and I’m just trying to keep up!” she says. “People’s responses have been incredible, and so encouraging. I had no idea it would be helpful for people at all – all this has come about quite accidentally and unplanned by me.

“I have friends overseas who run retreat days who are using them in those situations. There are other people with chronic pain issues, who have trouble sitting down for long periods of time concentrating on big slabs of Scripture, but with this they can be still, be with God’s word and reflect on it. Others do it with their kids and find it really easy to talk about the meaning of the verse and other spiritual things. People use them as part of their anxiety and depression management therapy... my mother works in pastoral care and chaplaincy with elderly people and she’s been using them, too.”

Atwood’s designs are strongly influenced by the art, architecture and culture she was exposed to growing up in Pakistan and Bahrain in a missionary family. Everything around her then, from buildings to buses, exploded with design and colour and she was particularly fascinated by the “mehendi” or henna decorations women would draw on themselves for weddings or other special occasions.

“I grew up having it [mehendi] done to me by the ladies upstairs or the neighbours and I loved it,” she says. “When I was older I started doing it myself and practising it... that’s where my design elements come from – out of that.”

Over the past nine years Atwood has moved from creating “visual poems” with written Bible verses to creating artwork around the verses, praying as she goes and reflecting on what is written. She rarely colours in the decorations but knows that others do and find this helpful to their faith life.

“I guess it’s like any method of devotion or worship – it will suit some people and not others,” she says. “I’ve been passionate about using creativity to connect with God’s word, and it gives people a chance to give it a go in whatever context they’re in. It’s about the process of engaging with God’s word, not how beautiful what you create is at the end.

“People often like to colour them in and then stick them around their home as a constant reminder of a verse of the Bible for them. Also when someone comes into their home who might not be Christian or familiar with what the Bible says, it’s quite a non-threatening way to have Scripture and a visual Christian presence.”
 

Meditations will be published on October 1 by Firewheel Press. Lorien Atwood’s Facebook group is called Colouring in Truth.

Veteran journalist Judy Adamson is Editor of the Southern Cross newspaper and regularly reviews movies and television.

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