An Art Ministry Awakened

Carmelle Beaugelin's call to provide opportunity for artistic expression in Christian spiritual practice and worship
Carmel B J Emerson Photo 1

Anyone who regularly attended chapel over the past few years would recognize Carmelle Beaugelin, MDiv '18, a faithful chapel assistant who joyfully greeted congregants during weekday worship services.

“We were considered the consistent faces of hospitality at chapel,” says Beaugelin. “Since there was a different worship leader every day, it was good to offer that familiarity.” Other responsibilities Beaugelin had as a chapel assistant included passing out bulletins, preparing communion, and accommodating worshippers with special needs.

After earning her Master of Divinity, Beaugelin joined the Institute for Youth Ministry (IYM) as the program coordinator for the Log College Project, a research grant initiative that awards 12 churches $15,000 to test, design, and implement new forms of intergenerational youth ministry for the 21st century.

“We selected churches that realized the traditional youth group model of isolating young people into little rooms away from everyone may be an outdated approach,” says Beaugelin.

Joining the IYM team was an easy decision for Beaugelin as she is a creative spirit. In recent years, she has developed innovative programming, like operating a food truck ministry where free or subsidized meals were made available to groups served by nonprofits. She also spearheaded the design and launch of a pop-up café that continues to make appearances in downtown Princeton. Both initiatives were affiliated with Kingston UnitedMethodist Church, where Beaugelin conducted her field education.

Other examples of Beaugelin’s imagination at work are through her artistry. She rediscovered her passion for visual art while caring for her mother, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the beginning of Beaugelin’s middler year. Her mother passed away in April 2017.

“I painted that whole year. I felt like that was really helpful for me," contemplated Beaugelin. "I forgot how much I loved painting.”

Friends encouraged Beaugelin to sell her work. Beaugelin’s response: “I don’t think I’m going to be that kind of artist.” But quickly conceded that "if God really wants me to take this seriously, I’ll sell a painting one day.”

One day came much sooner than Beaugelin anticipated. A turning point in her calling to express faith through art was when she took the course God, Humanity, and Creation in the Old Testament with Jacqueline Lapsley, professor of Old Testament and dean and vice president of academic affairs. For the final project, Beaugelin created an exegetical art piece. Her painting was based on the exegesis of a passage in Job. Soon after the course ended, Lapsley purchased the piece.

"If God really wants me to take this seriously, I'll sell a painting one day."

According to Beaugelin, that initial purchase triggered a domino effect. “People were coming out of the woodwork to buy my work. I began posting my art online and participated in art shows.” Seizing the momentum, Beaugelin curated a gallery during Black History Month that exhibited black artists from the region, transforming the Gambrell Room in Scheide Hall into an art studio.

“The event initiated an underground community of Seminary artists,” says Beaugelin. “We would discuss topics like the role of art in ministry and congregations, the elitism around art, and the accessibility of it. It became bigger than what I imagined.”

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Latasha Milton, Class of 2018

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