Using tattoos to spread the word
By Nick Perry
SEATTLE — The sight of a woman being tattooed live on the altar to the sound of a buzzing ink gun provided a startling backdrop to Sunday's evangelical sermon.
In the drive to stay relevant, the Gold Creek Community Church hosted a series called Permanent Ink that featured Sunday's live-tattoo finale.
The Mill Creek, Wash., church is not exactly staid — booming 20-minute rock sets launch regular sermons — yet the pastors acknowledge that this latest series was pushing societal norms.
"We've said from the start that we are not advocating tattoos — nor discouraging them," said pastor Larry Ehoff.
He added: "It's (tattooing) neither immoral nor moral, it's just the choice of a person."
Ehoff said the church is telling the same story of Jesus as always, just finding different ways to tell it.
Sharon Snell was one of several congregants who volunteered to be tattooed Sunday. At the noon service, she got on stage and faced away from about 150 parishioners while tattoo artist Matt Sawdon worked on an image of a police shield on her lower back.
It was Snell's third tattoo and represents her husband's work as a police officer. Snell said last month's shooting death of a Seattle police officer brought home to her the fragility of life. "Anything can happen at any time," Snell said.
As Snell's tattoo took shape, pastor Dan Kellogg told the congregation that permanent markings, both good and evil, are mentioned in the Bible. The most famous symbol, he said, is "666," the sign of the devil.
But there's also mention in the Bible of markings on Jesus, saying he is the king of kings and lord of lords, Kellogg said.
Another congregant who volunteered, Erica Armendariz, got work done on an arm tattoo she calls her "faith sleeve."
"Surprisingly, I was not nervous to get up on stage," she said, adding that the tattoo process, which in her case stretched through two sermons, was getting painful toward the end.
Tattoo artist Sawdon said that aside from the limited time he had during each sermon, tattooing someone in church wasn't much different from a normal day's work.