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As of July 4th, a painting of the Last Supper featuring a black Jesus will replace a Nativity scene at St Alban’s Cathedral to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

The artist behind the painting, Lorna May Wadsworth, admitted to basing her portrayal of Jesus around Jamaican-born model Tafari Hinds, which, she claims, is just as accurate as traditional representations.

I cast Tafari Hinds as my Jesus to make people question the Western myth that he had fair hair and blue eyes. My portrayal of him is just as ‘accurate’ as the received idea that he looked like a Florentine.

The acclaimed artist’s 2009 piece made headlines last year when it was discovered to have been shot by a pellet gun by someone she believed disagreed by her portrayal of Christ.

Yet undeterred by this brazen act of vandalism, St Albans is putting the painting pride of place to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

Lorna May Wadsworth (left) paints Christ as Jamaican-born model Tafari Hinds (right), which she claims is just as accurate as traditional representations.

 

An historic cathedral has installed a painting of the Last Supper featuring a black Jesus above its altar, as its Dean warned that the church is not in a “strong position” to preach on racial justice.

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Like most religious sites, St Albans, one of Britain’s oldest Cathedrals which dates back to the 8th Century, has been shut during the lockdown.

The Very Reverend Dr. Jeffrey John,  Dean of St Albans, said:

 “The church is not in a strong position to preach to others about justice, racial or otherwise.

But our faith teaches that we are all made equally in the image of God, and that God is a God of justice.

Black Lives Matter, so this is why we have turned our Altar of the Persecuted into a space for reflection and prayer with Lorna’s altarpiece at the heart.”

Titled A Last Supper, the painting reworks Da Vinci’s renowned 15th-century mural by casting a Jamaican-born model as Christ.

The announcement came less than a week after Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury urged the Church of England to reconsider its portrayal of Christ as white.

He was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today program if the ‘way the western church portrays Jesus needs to be thought about again’. He immediately replied:

“Yes of course it does, this sense that God was white… You go into churches (around the world) and you don’t see a white Jesus.

You see a black Jesus, a Chinese Jesus, a Middle Eastern Jesus – which is of course the most accurate – you see a Fijian Jesus.”

 

Welby stressed his view was not to ‘throw out’ the past but instead offer a rounded picture of the ‘universality’ of Christ.

He added: “Jesus is portrayed in as many ways as there are cultures languages and understandings.”

And I don’t think that throwing out everything we’ve got in the past is the way to do it but I do think saying “that’s not the Jesus who exists, that’s not who we worship”, it is a reminder of the universality of the God who became fully human.

The Archbishop also said Canterbury Cathedral would be reviewing its statues to see if they all should be there.

Justin Welby said Christians should also accommodate global depictions of Jesus which show him as black, Chinese, and Middle Eastern.

Embracing this philosophy, St Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire is covering up its existing altarpiece painting with the high-resolution print which challenges ‘the Western myth’ that Jesus looked European.

It will cover up an untitled three-part painting of a scene from the Nativity, which shows the Virgin Mary and Child flanked by the shepherds and kings, until October.

Like most religious sites, St Albans, one of Britain’s oldest Cathedrals which dates back to the 8th Century, has been shut during the lockdown.

It opened for private prayer on June 15 and will welcome back worshippers and tourists on July 4, when Boris Johnson green-lights the next wave of lockdown loosening.

From then, visitors to the Church will be able to view A Last Supper on the altar.

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