The Reverend Dr. Patrick Overton, an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and an evangelist for the arts in rural and small town America, describes himself in this way: "I am who I am today because I was nurtured by place. I don’t think of it as a “rural” place — that word has always been of concern to me because of the baggage that goes with it — but finding myself “placed” in Boonville, Missouri, and experiencing what happened to me in that place shaped everything I have done with my life since then. I didn’t go to that place to do this work. I went there because I wanted to live in that place. The place provided me with the invitation to express myself and what I learned was that while I am a writer/poet/visual artist, my real art is working to invite the expression of the art of those around me. It is this influence that has invited me to explore the power of art, the gift art gives to the artist and the audience, and the essential way in which the art and the invitation of the expression of art defined the place in which we live.

"In the early nineties, when the National Endowment for the Arts was under attack because of Jesse Helms and the extreme evangelical right going after the arts as pornography and blasphemy, the United States Congress held a hearing on whether or not the Federal Government should continue funding the NEA.

"I was asked to be one of the 24 witnesses that testified in the House Sub-Committee on the Interior, representing people who are involved in the arts in rural/small communities all across the United States. I was the only witness there with that specific purpose.

"I had five minutes to make my case along with a ten-page double spaced position paper. To this day, I consider those five minutes to be the most important five minutes of my life. I had to condense my beliefs and values for the arts down the most bare essentials — and what came out of that presentation were two specific things: my absolute commitment that the greatest natural resource of this country is Rural Genius. It has been from the beginning and it can be again if we will just understand how to maximize this untapped resource.

"The second outcome was the phrase I used to talk about the arts as being the way in which citizens in this country are 'Rebuilding the Front Porch of America.' That image of the arts as the new front porch galvanized everything I believe about the arts in rural/small communities in one phrase. And that became the catalyst for my book by the same name. And I consider that book the single greatest contribution I have made to the field, to the rural/small communities all across this country; and the rural genius that lives in each and every one of us.

"So, if you ask me what my real work is about, I don’t say “the arts.” My work is about community and the vital and essential and unique way in which the arts identify community; celebrate community; explain community; create community; and well … in every sense, are among the most authentic expressions of community possible.

"We need to know our story, our pioneers, our contribution to the country in which we live. We need to know how what we do makes a difference in people’s lives, how it contributes to making community; how it changes the very essence of place in which we live. We need to be telling the story much better and more often to more people."

This Sunday, April 30, 2017, Rev. Overton will bring his distinctive voice and message to the congregation of Union Avenue Christian Church as our guest preacher. The Chancel Choir of Union Avenue Christian Church will perform a set of four newly published songs written by Rev. Overton and composed by Frank Proctor. This is a unique opportunity to hear Rev. Overton's unique voice.

This information attributed to Patrick Overton was gathered from an interview between Patrick Overton and Savannah Barrett and published on the internet. Ms. Barrett holds the copyright to this interview.