Stewart, Alan - VM - Jonathan Evens
Alan Stewart: The Blind Jesus (No-one belongs here more than you)
Invited to be with Jesus
by Jonathan Evens
The Blind Jesus (No-one belongs here more than you) is an image in charcoal of the Last Supper which includes the central character of a visually impaired Jesus, surrounded by twelve people of differing ages, backgrounds and abilities. At the table, an empty chair invites the viewer to find themselves at the table.
This image has been commissioned by Celia Webster, Co-Founder of Wave (We’re All Valued Equally), as part of a project that seeks images of the Last Supper that are truly for everyone. Schools, churches and community groups are being invited as part of this project to create their own Last Supper images.
Celia writes: “When our third little girl was born with learning disabilities my experience was of no longer fitting in, and of feeling that we didn’t belong anywhere.
For me the piece is very moving. The young man leaning on Jesus’ shoulder reminds me of the trust my daughter seems to have in God (well, most of the time!) which often teaches and challenges me. The wounded Jesus reassures me that He is never a distant God and like any loving parent experiences his children’s hurt and suffering as his own. His vulnerability reflects the God that came as a vulnerable baby and then refugee and then victim of torture. It reminds me that, whilst sadly we Christians are a very poor advert for Christianity and can appear bigoted, racist, exclusive, homophobic and judgemental, Jesus is not like this. Jesus is the friend of the overlooked and those on the edge. He is the God of an upside-down Kingdom.
However worthless, not good enough, whatever sense of failure we might feel, we are shown in this picture that our true identity is found in Jesus who just wants us to be close to him and love him and allow him to love and transform us!
The artist, the Reverend Alan Stewart, intends that this Jesus challenges theological and Biblical imagery of blindness as sin or something to be cured. This is a Jesus who comes from a place of vulnerability, unaffected by the visual appearance of others.
Responding to the image, a visually impaired friend of Alan’s has written “as a visually impaired person an image of Jesus who is like me makes me feel accepted … I wish my visual impairment would be cured. But I am glad that Jesus embraces it.”
John Beauchamp, Diocesan Disability Ministry Enabler for the Diocese of London, writes that “In this Last Supper the marginalised and excluded and devalued are invited to the table. Invited to be with Jesus. To sit and eat with Him. To find themselves with Him and recognise themselves in Him. To find that their embodiment is not a barrier but in fact their passport into the kingdom where all of our human diversity is redeemed and celebrated in a riot of joy and celebration.”
The image is offered as the beginning of a conversation. The questions it asks include:
- What associations do we have with blindness?
- How does this Jesus ‘see’ me?
- Is his outstretched hand a welcome or an asking for help?
- Why has each figure been chosen?
- What are their stories?
- Who else should be at this meal?
- Is the empty chair for you?
Alan Stewart: The Blind Jesus (No-one belongs here more than you), 2022, 140cm by 90cm, charcoal on paper.
Alan Stewart is currently the vicar of two churches in Hertford, England. He studied Foundation Art at Belfast Art College, then graduated with a degree in Fashion and Textiles from Central St Martins in London. From an early age he has drawn and painted. He has exhibited in various churches and galleries. He works are in charcoal, pastel and collage.
Wave for Change is about encouraging and enabling mixed-ability friendships. Wave wants to see more people with and without learning disabilities mixing and having fun together in the heart of our communities. Their focus is on enabling places across the UK where this can happen. They connect, encourage and support those who want to see vibrant mixed-ability social and worship groups in their communities. To find out more about this project contact Celia Webster at email@example.com. https://www.wave-for-change.org.uk/
Jonathan Evens is Team Rector at the churches of Wickford and Runwell, England. He is co-author of ‘The Secret Chord,’ an impassioned study of the role of music in cultural life written through the prism of Christian belief. He blogs at https://joninbetween.blogspot.com/
ArtWay Visual Meditation July 24, 2022