St Albans Cathedral has installed a painting depicting Jesus as a black man in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The piece is Lorna May Wadsworth's painting 'A Last Supper', in which Jamaican-born model Tafari Hinds is seen as the central figure of as Jesus Christ. The painting will be placed over an altarpiece painting which depicts the Virgin Mary and her child with the shepherds and kings.
The installation comes after the Dean of St Albans, the Very Rev Dr Jeffrey John, said that the Church of England was "not in a strong position to preach to others about justice, racial or otherwise".
In comments made on the new installation to the St Albans review, he added: "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.”
Lorna Wadsworth added: “Painting the Last Supper altarpiece made me really think about how we are accustomed to seeing Jesus portrayed.
"Experts agree he would most likely have had Middle Eastern features, yet for centuries European artists have traditionally painted Christ in their own image.
"I cast Jamaican-born model, 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. I also knew that, from a previous portrait of Tafari, there is something in his countenance that people find deeply empathetic and moving, which is the overriding quality I wanted my Christ to embody.”
The Cathedral added: "We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement to be allies for change - building a strong, just and fair community where the dignity of every human being is honoured and celebrated; where black voices are heard, and where black lives matter."
On BBC Radio 4's Today Programme last week, Archbishop Justin Welby said the Church of England would "very carefully" review the nature of statues currently present at CofE churches following an explosion of anti-racism protests across the country. He added that "some will have to come down" and "some names will have to change" in order for true justice to take