Battle Creek woman feeds spirit as painter and pastor

Nicole L.V. Mullis
Battle Creek Enquirer

Battle Creek — Ministers are called. Artists are born.

Sue Trowbridge is a pastor and a painter. She knows about heaven’s calls and natural gifts. She’s even seen heaven and nature sing. What she didn’t understand was how to be both.

“My dad always said, ‘We knew Susie was going to be an artist, because she started on the wall, in the crib, with you-know-what.’ ” Trowbridge laughs. “I really was born to paint. I feel that is my nature.”

She graduated from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, but not to paint.

“I didn’t understand how I could make money as an oil painter,” said Trowbridge. “So I became a jeweler.”

Trowbridge received her first call to the ministry as a 19-year-old camp counselor. She was listening to a counselor sing a song of praise to Jesus by a lake.

The call came again at 27, this time through prayer, but Trowbridge wasn’t ready. The final call came at 29, as Trowbridge was reading about a woman minster.

“It just hit me that God was saying, ‘This is what I want you to do,’ ” said Trowbridge.

Trowbridge quit her job and headed to Boston University to earn her master’s in divinity.

The workload was intense. Trowbridge was struggling. A counselor advised her to replace a theology course with an art class. Trowbridge did, enrolling in a jewelry class she was qualified to teach. Soon, she was painting again, and it made all the difference.

Trowbridge finished her masters and began life in the ministry, first in Boston, and then in Michigan. Art took a backseat. After 17 years, it all but stopped.

Trowbridge was depressed, but didn’t know why. Her husband knew, and drove her to the Art Center of Battle Creek to take a painting class. Again, it made all the difference.

Then, after witnessing the effect Mary Cassatt’s artwork had on her young son, Trowbridge had an epiphany.

“The influence you have with your art for God will have more influence than your sermons do for God, so take it seriously,” said Trowbridge.

Trowbridge left the ministry to paint full time, creating art that speaks to “a spiritual reality instead of a physical reality.”

When her son graduated high school, Trowbridge returned to the pulpit, but only part time.

She understood there are no hobbies with God.