A paint-splattered Peter Carr spent his spring break trekking from his Carmel Road home to uptown Charlotte.
The task at hand: a 542-square-foot canvas.
A junior at Myers Park High School, Peter is working to become an Eagle Scout by painting a mural - 42 feet by 13 feet - on the side of Faith Liberation Community Christian Church on Moretz Avenue, off North Graham Street in the Druid Hill community.
To become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scout program, Scouts must organize an extensive service project in the community and manage a team of volunteers who help complete it. Peter said it's expected that aspiring Eagle Scouts spend at least 200 hours on their projects.
A member of Boy Scout Troop 115, Peter started planning his service project last November.
"I wanted to try something different," he said.
In 2008, Peter's father, Jimmy, became the pastor of Faith Liberation Community Christian Church, a small Evangelical Presbyterian church with a congregation of about 40. Jimmy Carr and his wife, Vickie, are the church's only white members.
Jimmy was a full-time pastor for 18 years, but soon after the Carr family moved from West Virginia to Charlotte, he took a full-time job as an environmental consultant with a local firm.
Though he was no longer in the ministry, Jimmy was still an ordained pastor, so he continued to attend quarterly presbytery meetings, where he met with other local Evangelical Presbyterian church leaders.
Jimmy was at a presbytery meeting when he was introduced to Rush Sherrill and Martin Davis, elders of Faith Liberation Community Christian Church, which in 2008 was without a pastor.
Because Jimmy and Vickie grew up in the throes of the Civil Rights movement, the couple has always had a passion for interracial ministry, Vickie said.
"We went to the church and fell in love with the people," said Vickie.
Faith Liberation Community Christian Church is too small to financially support a full-time pastor, so Jimmy kept his environmental consulting job, which requires a lot of travel, and alternates preaching with Sherrill and Davis.
When Peter started to plan his Eagle Scout service project, his parents' church came to mind.
"I thought it would be a good way to help out that community," he said.
Lending a hand
Peter worked on the mural design for a week or two, just letting it develop. Then he ran it by the church and the landlord. After raising about $400 for the project, Peter rented scaffolding and used chalk lines to etch the pattern.
The 17-year-old's mural flows from abstract representations to the Charlotte cityscape, including uptown landmarks like the Bank of America tower and the Carolina Panthers football stadium.
A row of houses splashed with school bus yellow, pumpkin and azure paint line the bottom of the mural. Above the homes, both black and white hands are raised in various expressions of worship. "They represent how the whole community comes together under the same God," Peter said. Across the mural, a violet airplane drags a banner quoting Proverbs 11:10: "When the godly succeed, the city rejoices."
"That's the theme of it," Vickie said. "If we live the way Jesus taught us to be, which is colorblind, there's going to be harmony. There's going to be people serving other people who need help."
It took six days for Peter and a team of 20 volunteers, made up of church members, family, fellow Scouts and kids from Peter's school art class, to complete the project. Ainsley Bloomer and Maria Withrow, both juniors at Myers Park High, helped Peter paint for a couple of days. Bloomer has a brother who's an Eagle Scout, so she knew how much work was involved.
"I've always wanted to paint a wall," Bloomer said.
Withrow nods, smiling: "I wanted to help Peter finish it. It's legal graffiti."
'Adding color, adding life'
The church would like to keep reaching out into its immediate low-income community. Directly across the street from Faith Liberation Community Christian Church, the Urban Ministry Center plans to build an 85-unit apartment complex called Moore Place that will provide housing and services for the chronically homeless. Construction will start this year.
Church Elder Sherrill, 63, said Peter's project is an extension of the church's ministry and will prompt conversation that could lead to evangelism.
"The mural ties us in with the larger community," Sherrill said. "The city downtown is going to hear us rejoicing. I just ride by and look at it and give praise to the Lord."
Peter started getting positive feedback before he'd even finished the mural.
"People have been walking by, saying, 'Thank you. It's brightening up the community,'" Peter said.
Sherrill agrees: "It was a dull, gray building. We just had a church sign," he said. "The mural is adding color, adding life."