It started as a block of lifeless walnut.

And then Pastor Gary Bell put his hands on it.


It started as a block of lifeless walnut.

And then Pastor Gary Bell put his hands on it.

He lovingly, during many hours, carved a pair of hands that would hold a bread paten for a seminary in Texas.

He began to construct the paten as a flat bowl but felt inspired to add more depth to the piece.

“You can’t always make wood do exactly what you want to do,” he said. “Sometimes the wood dictates the piece.”

Bell, 56, pastor at First Christian Church in Newton, said he fell in love with woodworking when he took shop in the eighth grade.

He got the opportunity to test his hands at woodworking again in his 50s.

Bell and a half dozen pastors from around the country were given scholarships through the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary to participate in a program with master woodworker David Marks of DIY television fame.

The scholarships were to be used to develop artistic skills the pastors could use in their ministries.

Two years ago, the group went to Marks’ studio in Santa Rosa, Calif., for a week’s instruction. The group returned for further instruction this summer.

Bell was reintroduced to the art of lathe work and introduced to vainer techniques. The vainer he created during his studies, “Crucifixion” is hanging in his Newton office.

His latest piece titled, “Creation to Calvary,” includes the paten made from walnut and purple heart wood and a communion chalice made of walnut.

The communion set was dedicated in the church and was sent as a gift to the Austin seminary.

Bell said his woodworking has helped him to view his work for the church in a different light. He said he has been able to envision new church program and “think outside of the box.”

“Primarily I use my experience in preparing for my sermons and what I am going to preach on a weekly basis on Sunday,” he said. “It helps me to get my mind on different approaches ... and helps me bring a different perspective and be more creative in my services.”

Bell said he was pleased to be able to create the communion set as a gift for another congregation.

“When you have brought it into the church for use and people are able to see it and appreciate it, then it becomes something. Then it takes on meaning,” he said.

Bell said he already has his next project in the design phase. He will be constructing another paten and chalice, this time for his church.

“There is an artist in all of us,” Bell said. “We may choose to ignore it, but there is an artist in everybody.”