Peronel Barnes is an award-winning landscape painter from Oxford. I encountered her paintings in a book of artistic work, Citizens and Exiles, produced by Evangelical Alliance member church St Aldates, where she worships. In the book, she quotes Psalm 65:8 as inspiration: “Dawn and dusk take turns in calling, ‘Come and worship’”. The awe and wonder of God’s creation inspired one of her exhibitions which was held just before lockdown. I spoke with her to hear how God is speaking through creativity in lockdown and how the church might tap into this in a time of change.

HL: How does Psalm 65:8 help us to understand the different ways in which God ministers to us?

PB: God knows creation is a way for people to see and respond to Him. It’s around us all the time for us to experience and engages each of our five senses. God in His generosity makes Himself abundantly available all the time. He’s presenting Himself in all He’s made. It’s like saying, Hey, what about this? What about Me?’ That verse (Psalm 65:8) shows that dawn and dusk are asking how will you worship?’ It’s a direction as well as a demonstration.

Bright air Peronel Barnes

HL: I’d like to understand more about how God works through artists, and I’m keen to learn from your experience. How is God working though you and your art?

PB: I had no idea that God would speak to other people through how I speak to Him [in painting]. I thought God, you’ve given me the skill to paint creation. I’ve learnt, I’ve practised and I’ve taught this skill, but I never thought it would be more than that.’ People ask me, why paint? I’m being obedient, it’s my response and worship to God.

Light in the darkness ©Peronel Barnes

HL: What would you say is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and creativity?

PB: I think of Genesis 1. The Holy Spirit brooded over the waters. There was the intentional presence of God in a moment of chaos to create order and light. We’re invited to create too, and Exodus 31 shows how, like Bezalel, we’re all required to do our bit.

He had to get up and make things; like him, we have a responsibility but also the honour and privilege to co-create. In this, God is like a good father who says to his child, here’s some pocket money, go buy a treat, and then when the child shows and shares with the father what they bought, the father thanks them, and shares it with them in delight, even though he provided the means in the first place.

Deep wisdom, dark and clear ©Peronel Barnes

HL: In this time of coronavirus, what might be the advantages of tapping into the creative talent within the body of Christ?

PB: There are two advantages: one, to encourage corporate belonging’, and two, to develop intimacy with God. I think back to The UK Blessing’ music video, and the impact it had on so many. Millions joined in to do their own version. So, in some ways, the restrictions have been fruitful. And they’ve made me think to myself, how precious and valuable is my relationship with God when I can’t be supported in the community. At first, lockdown was hard. The garden is great, but it’s not quite the wildness’ outdoors which I’m always seeking. But now I’ve developed a mindset that asks How can I express God in whatever I’m doing today?”

HL: Many church leaders are exhausted in their ministries at the moment. But what advice might you offer churches who want to encourage a broader range of creative ministry?

PB: If you want to expand the way your church offers ministry and creativity, be open-handed. Ask people in the church, what’ve you got?’ Include, engage and invite others, and allow them to contribute.

"God’s presenting Himself in all He’s made. It’s like saying, ​‘Hey, what about this? What about Me?’"

See more of Peronel’s work at Per​onel​.com

Creative ministry: Explore the series

This reflection is part of a series on creative ministry for this season of challenge and change, featuring four inspiring Christians in creative ministrie

In this time of coronavirus, when we have the chance to rebuild, what can the church learn from the creative ways God uses to minister to us? In this time of pain, restlessness and change, can we use creative expressions to point to the source of comfort, peace and steadfastness? And how is God using the church and Christians in the arts to do this already?

You can click through to more article in the series below, where Christians in creative ministries share their thoughts on these questions:

Creative ministry: A gateway to the gospel

Creative ministry: A gateway to the gospel

Jonathan Rea, creative director of New Irish Arts, shares how creativity helps Christians to connect with culture and open a gateway to the gospel.
Creative ministry: The heavens declare…

Creative ministry: The heavens declare…

Why does God minister through creativity? And in a time of rebuilding, what can we learn from our creative God as we minister and reach out with the message of Jesus?