For two years, Crofton's Community United Methodist couldn't decide what to put on the expansive white wall behind the pulpit.
"Some of us on the worship committee didn't want felt banners like the other churches," the Rev. Chris Holmes said. "We wanted something distinctive."
Then, last summer, a visiting minister counseled that whatever went up on the wall of the 4-year-old church building should be devoid of words.
"It should allow people to worship with their eyes and souls," Mr. Holmes recalled the minister saying.
So the worship committee looked to the congregation members for help. Doe Minteer, a resident artist at Savage Mill, agreed to create four 5 1/2 -foot-by-11-foot paintings that could be changed with the religious seasons. George White provided stretcher bars for the canvas. Bob Bennett, a cabinetmaker, built the oak frame.
In November, Mr. Bennett finished the oak frame, but it was so big he couldn't fit in his truck. So he and a church teen-ager carried the frame a mile and a half from his Crofton Meadows home to the church on the 1600 block of Reidel Road.
In December, Ms. Minteer put up the first painting, an angel for Advent. In February, she put up a second painting for Pentecost. And last Sunday she put up the third one, depicting Jesus' last days leading to his resurrection.
But it is the second painting that has moved the congregation.
Ms. Minteer practices what she calls a "naive" style in which she interviews a person and bases the painting on the interview.
One Sunday in January, she asked the 700-member congregation to write on slips of paper what the church meant to them.
As she pored through the 300 responses, she found that people had written or drawn the same ideas -- hands to show for helping others, circles to show community and family, hearts for love, doves for peace.
"There was a lot of strength," Ms. Minteer recalled, tears welling in her eyes. "It was really powerful to read [the papers] to think that hundreds of people with their own needs and places came in one Sunday and showed they had a need so deep and it was being met."
"It took a week to paint it, but it took only one read to know what it was," she added.
The painting is in muted pastel colors with a flame wrapped around a cross with concentric circles of people in the background. "People left that morning speechless, moved," recalled Mr.Holmes of the Sunday when the painting was put up. "That's a pretty strong indication of the power of art in worship."