JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Greg Stiver said God’s calling led him to the ministry when he was in his late 20s.
But it was a growing passion for local architecture that led the Moxham pastor to pick up a pencil and begin drawing again over the past few years.
Stiver, 56, of Westmont, said he’s found himself drawing buildings from both his family’s past and the Johnstown area in the years since he first became pastor at Christ United Methodist Church.
“Places change so much and society changes so much. You never know how long a building will be there before it’s changed or gone,” Stiver said.
“I want to try to bring some of these old buildings back, at least on paper.”
Stiver said he likes to find generations-old black-and-white photographs of area landmarks and use them as inspiration for his works.
To date, he’s drawn the Moxham area’s United Methodist churches, the Inclined Plane and the Conrad Building, as well as a series of buildings from Somerfield, Somerset County, a town that was vacated by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s to make room for the Youghiogheny Lake.
“That was an original restaurant in Somerfield,” Stiver said, pointing to a black-and-white drawing of Hook’s Restaurant as he flipped through a binder filled with drawings.
Stiver’s wife, Bridget, is an Addison area native. Stiver said he developed an interest in the long-gone community while serving as a pastor at Addison United Methodist Church between 2009 and 2013.
Stiver, a Jefferson County native, said he has drawn his family’s old churches, too.
Weathered barns are another favorite.
Stiver said he likes to stick with pencil to draw because when he sets it to a clean white background, “the texture and the details really come out.”
“I like the contrast between the lights and the darks,” he said. “It really brings out the shading and the contrast … and the depth of the buildings.”
Stiver said hopes to turn his hobby into a business one day to feature his artwork.
Bridget Stiver said she often comes home to find her husband quietly at work at his office desk or sketching at a TV tray.
“He does a great job,” she said, noting he’s been approached several times to draw buildings for people.
His drawing of Park Avenue Church in Moxham is her favorite, she said.
“It just jumps out – like it’s in 3-D,” she said.
Stiver said he drew a lot in high school.
He took art classes, joined the art club and contributed to his high school’s calendar – but he got away from it as he grew older.
He went to Clarion University and pursued a career in computer science – but ended up following “God’s calling” to pursue a path to ministry a few years later.
At one point, he was considering a job in his field in DuBois.
When it didn’t pan out, he said, “I knew God didn’t want me there. He had other plans in mind for me.”
Stiver continues preaching 23 years later.
Stiver credited his parents for also guiding him in his early years, saying his mother always supported his artistic endeavors.
He said she, too, had a talent for drawing.
“She really encouraged me,” he said.
His mother died in February, and Stiver said he honors her in every sketch.
White clouds frame the top of each of his drawings, and Stiver said they remind him of stories she told him as a boy.
“We used to look up in the sky together and she always told us to look in the clouds for angels,” he said, adding that she raised him to be the man – and the pastor – he is today.
“Those clouds are for her,” he said. “I miss her. But I know where she is today.”
Information from: The Tribune-Democrat, http://www.tribune-democrat.com