Divine intervention is a remarkable concept. It can happen when least expected and when needed most.
Perhaps that’s what occurred in spring 2016 when the North Carolina Synod nearly gave up on the coloring pages for Ever-Reforming: A Reformation 500 Cross Generational Study. (Note: the study is in the lower right-hand corner.) The 44-week Reformation curriculum for adults and youth is one of the synod’s largest anniversary programs.
“We had exhausted every possible resource for finding artists [to draw the pages],” said Mindy Makant, assistant professor of religious studies and director of youth and family ministry at Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, N.C., and member of the synod’s Reformation anniversary committee. “Then Robbin put something on her Facebook page for adult coloring pages and I called her days after we had nixed the pages.”
Robbin Isenhour-Stewart, a professional artist, is a former-student-turned-friend from one of Makant’s faith formation classes at Lenoir-Rhyne. During this free community program a year and a half ago, Makant learned of her friend’s talents.
“It was the Holy Spirit working exactly the way the Holy Spirit works,” Isenhour-Stewart said.
The pages stemmed from an adult coloring book trend that began in late 2015 where the pictures are more intricate than those found in children’s versions. For her designs, Isenhour-Stewart spent time up-front reading and learning from the digital, completed curriculum.
“I didn’t have the ELCA background of (Martin) Luther,” said Isenhour-Stewart, a Presbyterian by birth but now married to a Lutheran. “I read through it and did thumbnail sketches to go with each. I had one sketch per lesson, as it was tough to abstract two to three for each lesson.”
Within a week, the initial concepts were ready for review. Once Makant gave her hearty approval, Isenhour-Stewart set off to complete her six-week journey of enlarging the thumbnails into the final designs. As part of her process, Isenhour-Stewart completed additional research to ensure she had a more informed perspective.
“I used the ELW (Evangelical Lutheran Worship) and study Bibles to get more information,” she said. “Some concepts were hard to capture, but it was important to me for them to be appealing and not turn anyone off, but rather get through the message of God’s love.
Isenhour-Stewart chose to create pictures that were as inclusive as possible: “I didn’t use faces to give away gender and race and wanted those represented to be ageless and androgynous.”
Further, the designs incorporate all of the ELCA’s ecumenical partners with only a few lessons not specific to other faiths, creating a much broader study. “As a Presbyterian, I like that they’re being inclusive of our faith,” she said of the ELCA’s ecumenical partnerships.
Of the experience to not only broaden her Lutheran knowledge but deepen her spiritual faith, she said, “It was really neat to come up with the concept for each of the lessons. I found Katie Luther’s story fascinating.”
Among her favorite final designs were Katie as Rosie the Riveter and Martin with a thought bubble. “It was fun to put him in more modern attire,” she said.
The curriculum and coloring pages, available on the synod’s website, are free of charge by design. “So many small congregations can’t afford materials,” Makant said. “While the writing was geared for middle school years and up, it would have left out the small communities and congregations with one-room Sunday schools.”
To access Ever-Reforming: A Reformation 500 Cross Generational Study, visit the North Carolina Synod’s Reformation anniversary website. Note: the study materials and coloring pages are two different download leads on the lower, right-hand side of the page.
If your congregation chooses to participate in the Reformation study with coloring pages, you’re invited and encouraged to share photos with ELCA500 on the ELCA500 Facebook page or via firstname.lastname@example.org.