Nestled in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, Montville Uniting Church has welcomed people into their church for over 20 years to pray, rest and reflect, but their recent addition of an art gallery has helped draw greater attention to how faith informs art and life. Ben Rogers reports.
Montville may only be home to around 1000 people, but this tiny town on the Sunshine Coast has firmly established itself as a tourist hot-spot thanks to its spectacular scenery, fine dining and creative soul. Art galleries and studios pepper Montville’s cultural landscape and in 2017 the town had a new artistic venue when the Montville Uniting Church officially opened its Reflection Gallery.
Born from a desire to help Christian artists express the journey of faith through their artworks, the Reflection Gallery is the brainchild of Rev Ron Potter—a minister, painter and currently the gallery’s curator—who felt God’s calling in 2016 to enhance the church’s ministry with an art gallery.
“The emphasis is on reflecting the experience of people with a Christian faith rather than specifically focusing on religious themes,” says Ron. “We believe that this quiet form of witness meets viewers where they are at.
“Displays change periodically and have consisted of paintings, photography and mixed media presentations made available by the generosity of the artists involved.”
Opening every day of the week is no small feat but thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers the gallery has welcomed thousands of visitors, both locals and those travelling from interstate or abroad. And if messages from the visitors book are anything to go by, the church is having a profound impact on those who encounter the Reflection Gallery.
“A very inspiring visit … Has lifted our spirit … Thank you,” says one entry; “What a great idea! Time out from the world to reflect on our Saviour,” says another; “Provoked deeper thought and reflection.”
“Overwhelmingly the comments have been expressions of thanks for having the church/gallery open and comments about how peaceful the experience of visiting it has been,” says Ron. “Some have revealed that it has helped them at a particularly difficult period in their lives.”
In 2018, the Montville congregation received a grant from the Redcliffe Uniting Community Bequest Fund to help further promote the Reflection Gallery through advertising in the Hinterland Times’ Gallery Trail publication. Redcliffe Uniting Church Minister Rev Paul Clark—who was a member of the Bequest Fund’s committee—saw the gallery as an innovative way to open a Gospel experience to people.
“Our grants have a three-pronged focus—to transform families, engage community or nurture faith, all in a gospel context,” says Paul. “The Montville grant got our attention because it is about a church seeking to dissolve the line between the community and the church, to engage the community.
“The gallery gets thousands of people walking past every week, so to find a way for people to walk in, stop, reflect, feel the gospel message, makes sense and the Reflection Gallery is a good attempt at doing this … plus it gets to encourage and support Christian artists, and God can speak through art.”
For those wishing to support the Reflection Gallery Ron suggests coming along or encouraging others to visit will aid their work and a “Friend of the Gallery” program is available for $10 per year which will keep you subscribed to gallery news.
For further information about the Reflection Gallery and their Friend of the Gallery program please contact Rev Ron Potter via phone (07) 5478 6484 or email firstname.lastname@example.org