Millington First UMC honors Lent with carving, painting, wood burning and sewing


Members of Millington First UMC in Millington, Tenn. and others from community renew spirits during Lent at church's "Restoration House" art center. Photos by Lindsey Byard

By Casey Northcutt Watson

At Millington First UMC, people are celebrating Lent with art.
Since August of last year, the church, located in Millington, Tenn., has been using its parsonage as an art center called “Restoration House.” Through this new facility, the congregation has been worshipping God and reaching out to its community through creativity.
“Our mission is to create opportunities for the Holy Spirit to renew lives through spirituality and the arts, while helping people tell their sacred stories as they journey towards wholeness,” Millington Director of Program and Outreach Ministries Lindsey Byard says. “We live into this mission by intentionally creating a space where people are welcome, creativity is explored, stories are shared, and the Holy Spirit is present.”
During the Lent season, the church has opened Restoration House each Wednesday night from 6 to 8 p.m. so people can “explore Lent through art,” Byard says. Restoration House staff members have prepared a few different projects for participants during this time. They can carve crosses from small blocks of wood, create crosses from recycled materials, paint a large wooden cross, decorate wooden eggs or crosses with wood burners, create prayer flags and banners or sew personal prayer labyrinths.
Some of these projects challenge participants to contemplate spiritual ideas. Cross carving symbolizes the difficulty attached to carving out daily time for Christ. When people use recycled material to build crosses, they take old items and remake them into artwork. This is similar to God’s act of redeeming humanity by sacrificing His son. Byard says the wood burning, prayer flags and banners, however, are open-ended creative choices while the prayer labyrinths can be used in personal prayer times.
In addition to its Lent celebration, Byard says, Restoration House also offers other classes for adults and children throughout the week, encouraging them to explore creativity through painting, drawing, pastels, sculpture, sewing, mixed media and more.
“In this space, the emphasis is on the process of creating rather than the end result,” she said, later adding, “People come to the house for more than art. They come for Sabbath. Some come in tears to be heard, some come to feel needed and others come with news of celebration.”
Restoration House currently has 45 registered students, not including open studio participants or those in weekend specialty classes. For more information about courses or projects, contact Byard at