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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Drawing on Experience

By John W. Kennedy
Dec. 12, 2010

Retired Assemblies of God minister Paul F. Gray of Carlisle, Ind., found a lot to chuckle about during his 54 years in ministry. These days, instead of putting illustrations into sermons, he draws illustrations about those in the pulpit.

Gray, 80, has penned about 100 cartoons in the past 15 years for Enrichment, the journal for AG ministers. While he still occasionally fills in as a preacher, Gray says his inspiration for ideas comes largely from the comments he hears from other clergy. Some at sectional and district pastor meetings have learned to clam up, lest their remarks end up as a punch line in a magazine.

“I try to be fair and be as hard on those in the pew as those in the pulpit,” says Gray, who has started to feature a recurring character called Pastor Flatline. “I see myself in cartoons, too. I try to teach with a smile.”

Gray, who also draws for other publications, has learned to walk a fine line by using irony without being insolent.

“He is just funny,” says Karen, 66, his wife of 19 years. “He’ll hand me a pile of cartoons, and I’ll go through them. I laugh at almost every one of them. I know who he’s drawing about.”

Paul and Karen wed after their first spouses died. Paul says Karen pushes him to excellence.

“She is my greatest critic,” says the deep-voiced Gray. “She’ll tell me, ‘I don’t get this one; it isn’t funny.’”

Gray has an admirer in Enrichment Managing Editor Rick Knoth, who includes at least two of his cartoons in each quarterly issue.

“He makes me laugh more than any other cartoonist,” Knoth says. “He really has a grasp of what’s going on in the church. His captions are so relevant to real-life experiences. He’s got a lot of wit, and his art style is very creative.”

Although he began sketching cartoons at age 5, Gray really didn’t begin to thrive as an artist until he joined the staff of Bereavement magazine. While grieving over the loss of a loved one may not seem like the most logical place for humorous cartoons, Gray managed to draw nearly a dozen a month in the more than three years he worked at the magazine.

He also has done cartoons for Leadership, LifeWay Sunday School curriculum and The Saturday Evening Post. In all, Gray figures around 1,000 of his drawings have been published.

Despite Gray’s proficiency, cartooning doesn’t make him a living. He and Karen receive meager Social Security checks. And while he pastored a total of 10 congregations in Ohio and Indiana over 34 years, he never managed to work anywhere that had a retirement plan. Gray mostly accepted assignments at small, troubled churches.

So, while pastoring, he always worked on the side by drawing cartoons or painting signs. Gray followed in the footsteps of his father, a Pentecostal minister and Works Progress Administration artist during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.

Gray’s older brother, Raymond, a retired printing shop employee in Brookville, Ohio, also has had cartoons published in Enrichment. His son, Paul Jr., who owns a graphic sign business in Holland, Mich., also dabbles as a cartoonist. Daughter Daneille Snowden is an ordained AG minister, co-pastoring with her husband, Brad, at New Life Christian Center, an AG congregation in Newton, Ill.

Gray tries to make ends meet by drawing, but he also receives help every month from the Assemblies of God Aged Ministers Assistance program to help pay the rent.

Although all his sources of income bring him only to the poverty level, Gray says he is grateful for today’s blessings. He well remembers growing up in the Great Depression and living in rat- and roach-infested apartments in Detroit. 

“The AMA has been a tremendous blessing,” says Gray, who survived both prostate and colon cancer in 2002. “If every ministry would be as faithful and gracious as AMA, what a kind world this would be.”

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Editor’s note: Information about the Aged Ministers Assistance program is available at or by calling 417-862-2781, ext. 2185.

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