Growing Arts Ministry Births Modern Baptismal Font

By Rick Wolcott*

Baptismal fonts often have ornately designed exteriors, but their interiors are usually not visible to worshippers in the pews.

“I want to be able to see the water,” said the Rev. Steve Stultz Costello, co-pastor with his wife Cara of Faith United Methodist Church (Tuscarawas District) in North Canton. “In seminary we talked so much about the power of images and symbols and that what we say and do in worship should all speak of God’s abundant grace and love, and of what we believe and have come to experience in Jesus Christ.”

Faith UMC has a growing arts ministry that invites people to discover their creativity and provides opportunities for them to use their talent.  In May, Stultz Costello asked five members involved in the arts ministry to design a new baptismal font for the church’s modern worship service.  It would replace a glass bowl from the kitchen used for previous baptisms in the Family Life Center gymnasium.

Jim Benzing, Wes Bullock, Al Martinsen, Suzie Thomas, and Aaron Vaughn knew they needed to create a font that was both beautiful and portable.  It needed to be big enough to look natural in the large temporary worship space, but small enough to fit through hall doorways and to be stored in a closet during the week.

“Art by committee is dangerous because everyone has their creative ideas and a flow for how they work,” said Benzing, who previously created a cross with molded hands and feet that is on display at the church and was on stage in Hoover Auditorium during Annual Conference 2011.

“The collaborative process could have gone south quickly but everyone was very patient and we ended up working well together,” said Vaughn, who has painted some of the wall murals at Faith UMC.

“If it had been up to me it would have been a pair of hands holding up a globe bowl, but we had a lot of different discussions and a lot of different directions,” he said.  “We talked about spiral springs, square structures, round structures, and flowing water with plumbing and lighting.”

The team chose the final design after looking at drawings of five different options.

Artists behind font
Al Martinsen, Suzie Thomas, Aaron Vaughn and Jim Benzing pose with the baptismal font they created with Wes Bullock (not pictured)

“Everyone’s eye went to this one.  It’s like the other ones didn’t even exist.  We were at such opposite directions for a long period of time, and then this was exactly what everyone wanted, not saying that God didn’t have a part in this, too,” said Martinsen, who has created paintings for the church in the past.

The baptismal font is 19 layers of ¾-inch Baltic Birch plywood glued together and sanded smooth, with a cross-shaped arm that holds a custom-designed glass bowl blown at Akron Glass Works.

“The one time we all met before my renewal leave, Jim mentioned they could use plywood and everyone was very hesitant.  But Jim could envision how plywood could look beautiful,” Stultz Costello said.

“There’s motion in it, there’s a flow, and you get that feeling using just wood,” Vaughn said.  “I think that’s pretty cool!”

“For something wood it definitely looks alive,” said David Coombs, who attended a late-November discussion with the artists as part of the church’s Wednesday Night Faith Connections that combines food, fun, faith, and fellowship.

The base is made of cherry wood with lacewood used to accentuate the cross.  The four sections around the cross were designed to hold prayers written by parents of those being baptized.  Burned into the wood lids of each of the prayer chambers is this verse: “By the abundant grace and overflowing love of God we are cleansed of sin and made whole in Christ.”

“I think it has been fun seeing people’s reactions to the baptismal font because everyone sees something different.  We’ve heard it’s a swan.  We’ve heard dove.  Some people think it’s a wave,” said Kathy Schmucker, Faith UMC spiritual formation director.  “For me, the first time I saw it I was in the back of the Family Life Center and it was in the center of the worship space and I saw this big letter C and an arm saying ‘come to me.’”

The reach of the baptismal font project extends beyond the walls of the church.  Donna Benzing, Jim’s wife, works with Guatemalan immigrants in the community.  They are using scrap wood from the font in bracelets that they make and sell.


Prayer Circle

Before concluding the evening with the artists in a prayer circle around the baptismal font, Stultz Costello had one final message.

“I believe when you gave yourselves over to this process that God saw this unformed substance, all the parts and you allowed yourselves to discover what that may be and what it might become and I just celebrate you for that,” he said.  “But I have to confess, I never imagined it would turn out this good.  It’s amazing!”

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Movie review: Wonder

NOVEMBER 27, 2017


Global Migration Sunday is December 3
Today more than 65 million people worldwide are displaced from their homes.  That figure is higher than at any time since World War II, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

In response to this global crisis, The United Methodist Church has designated December 3 as Global Migration Sunday, a day of prayer and a special offering to raise awareness and funds to aid migrants and refugees.

“This is the day for The UMC to act with conviction and courage, giving life to its commitment to be disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” said the Council of Bishops Immigration Task Force.  “How we respond to the immigration crisis at this moment will determine the vitality of the church for generations to come.”

View resources  for Global Migration Sunday and explore ways to give.

UMC #GivingTuesday: November 28
Remember that tomorrow, November 28 to visit and select from UMC-related projects and missionaries who bring hope and healing to a world in need.

Cleaning Buckets and Hygiene Kits Sent to Puerto Rico
United Methodist Volunteers in Mission North Central Jurisdiction (UMVIM-NCJ) Disaster Response Liaison Jason Frazer reports that three shipping containers of cleaning buckets and hygiene kits were due to arrive in Puerto Rico on Thanksgiving Day.

The photo above shows items loaded into one of three containers at the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Sager Brown depot in Baldwin, Louisiana during the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Annual Meeting.  Five containers, carrying $794,000 worth of the buckets and health kits requested by the bishop and the conference in Puerto Rico, have been shipped since the deadly hurricanes struck the island in late September.

In addition, an Action Response Team (ART) recently traveled to Puerto Rico to plan with the bishop and staff there the response of The United Methodist Church.  The team took 12 satellite phones, solar lights, and solar chargers for cell phones.

July 10-24, 2018Ukraine
United Methodist Volunteers in Mission will be traveling to Chernivsti in western Ukraine, The team will participate in the ministry of the UMC in Chernivsti, located on the border of Ukraine and Romania. Approximate cost: $2,000. Contact Kathryn Adams

Young People’s Ministry

Project Feed Packs 54,000 Meals
East Ohio Conference youth continue to fight the war against hunger here in the United States and around the world.  This year’s Project Feed – one mission in two locations – saw more than 540 volunteers flock to West Elementary School in Newcomerstown and Wadsworth Middle School for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people they have never met.

Over two days the teens packed 54,000 dry meals and donated 950 cans of food to Rise Against Hunger.  This is the fourth straight year the East Ohio Conference has partnered with the international relief agency formerly known as Stop Hunger Now.  In that time, our youth have packed 240,000 meals and donated more than 2,700 cans of food!

Episcopal Office

Bishop Malone Shares Her Call Story
Bishop Tracy S. Malone shares her call story, lessons she has learned in her ministry, the hope she has for future generations of clergy, and much more in an interview recorded for Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC 21).


Retirement announcement
Lois Speelman will retire on December 19 after more than 27 years of faithful service to the East Ohio Conference.  “Our clergy and laity have been blessed by Lois’ passion for the Church, and her dedication to help others.  She will be missed,” said Director of Communication Rick Wolcott.

UM Financial Credit Union

Skip A Payment
Our 2017 Skip a Pay is going on now! If you haven’t already, submit your Skip A Payment form to skip your December Payment now until December 31st. You may choose to skip your payment for a fee of $35 per loan. Complete the form and either mail or fax it into the credit union. Fax Number: 513-528-7480 or mail to: 431 Ohio Pike Suite 100 N Cincinnati, OH 45255

Statement Fee
Beginning in 2018, UMFCU will be implementing a $3 Statement Fee for paper statements. Avoid the fee and sign up for e-statements now! Contact one of our offices with questions. North Canton (800) 831-3972 ,Cincinnati (800) 373-1059, Indianapolis (317) 296-7177.

Updated Member Information
Have you recently had a life event? Moved, gotten married, etc? Make sure to notify your credit union! Be sure to update your address, phone number, and email address to stay up to date with credit union news and changes.

Pastoral Care and Counseling

November 27, 2017  Resources

In this edition we feature:

  • Sexual Misconduct at Church
  • New Hampshire Rep. on”Me Too” Addressing Sexual Harassment
  • Living in the Now: One Thing
  • Audio  Meditation: Aligning Yourself with Self
  • Navigating the Holidays When You Have Depression
  • Quest for a Good Night’s Sleep
  • Spiritual Practice Groups and Listings of our Spiritual Directors

Contact Us
If you have any questions or issues you would like for us to address, or would like to get email alerts when new resources have been posted, please contact Howard Humphress or use our quick contact form.

Media Center

The Media Center recently acquired the following resources:

Call the Media Center at (800) 831-3972 x 139 or send an e-mail to Browse the resource catalog at

Message in the Movies

Photo by A24

Lady Bird
I was surprised to see a film that was so respectful of religion and parochial school education. Although the students understandably mock their faith, the nuns and priests who teach the students are presented in caring and compassionate ways. There is a moment of spiritual clarity that takes place late in the film that is offered without irony.

For full review by Rev. Bruce Batchlor-Glader


Positions available:

  • Summer Intern, Lakeside
  • Executive Director. Lake Junaluska
  • Chancel Choir and Adult Bell Choir Director, Louisville Christ UMC
  • Contemporary Worship Leader, Louisville Christ UMC

Details of the above classifieds/items wanted can be found here. 
To submit job postings and items available please email

Events – November 27-December 11

Follow this link to the events calendar. 
To submit a calendar event.

Dates to remember


Please pray for the families of:

  • John A. Clouston, retired associate, who died November 6, 2017
  • Ruth Blank, surviving spouse of Thomas E. Blank, who died November 10, 2017
  • Daniel M. Cico, spouse of Pastor Karen Cico, who died  November 13, 2017 and
  • Donald C. Prather, retired local pastor, who died November 20, 2017.

For full obituary notices.

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To subscribe please send your request to Lois Speelman.  Information from this E-News may be copied and used in your local church.

The next scheduled edition of the E-News will be December 11, 2017.  Deadline for submission is December  6.