ATHENS -- The church Thomas Settles pastors is barely nine months old and still operating out of a small strip mall just south of the UGA campus. So he’s always looking for ways to spruce up the new place. But he never dreamed he’d end up with a work of art the likes of which is now sitting inside Calvary Bible Church.
Nor could he have imagined who it would come from.
Settles is better known for his other job, which serving the Georgia football program as the team chaplain. And it was in that capacity that Settles was attending Thursday night’s annual fundraiser gala for UGA’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes campus ministry.
The event was emceed by Atlanta-based actor and comedian Jeff Foxworthy and hosted by Georgia football coach Mark Richt, so the jokes were flying and a good time was being had. But highlight of the evening was an on-stage art creation by nationally-renown performance artist Jared Emerson. During the course of a 10-minute presentation, using nothing by his hands and paint on black canvas, Emerson created a spectacular portrait of Jesus Christ.
A little while later, the piece was auctioned off. But as the price continued to go up-and-up, Richt interrupted the proceedings and conferenced on-stage with Foxworthy. Richt then announced that they were going to trump the bidding and pool their resources to buy the painting. Their winning bid was $15,000.
“We’ve got something special we want to do with it,” Richt cryptically told the crowd.
It wasn’t until after the banquet was over that Richt came up to Settles and let him in on his secret.
“He said they wanted to bless the church and give it to us,” Settles said Sunday night. “I was blown away. Coach Richt has been so gracious to us. The funny thing about it, we had a couple of church members there and one of them was poking me on the side and saying, ‘that’d be great if the church could buy it.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, but the church can’t afford it.’ So it was cool for Coach Richtf to just give it to us like that. He has been such a blessing to me personally and also to the church.”
Now Settles’ task is finding somewhere to display the enormous work of art.
“I have no idea where we’re going to put it,” Settles said with a laugh. “Some of the ladies at the church are going to put it up sometime this week. I’m wise enough to know that’s not a decision I need to make. They’ll find a place for it somewhere this week.”