Based in the centre of Glasgow, “Gospel Sketchbook” is an art project, which helps make the public curious about the Bible. Jesus used story-telling to engage people, similarly the paintings create a fascination of the Bible for people who aren’t familiar with it, and a challenge to those who thought they knew it all. The three-year project is to create twenty-four paintings; one for each chapter of the Gospel of Luke. A short documentary film is made to accompany each painting.
City centre churches have a unique opportunity to connect with the public, because so many people walk past the front door. In 2015, St George’s Tron in Glasgow opened the Wild Olive Tree Cafe, a social enterprise with all profits going to Christian charities. At the same time, a “Go For It” funded pilot project to have an artist-in-residence, was established. At that time, I painted, “Our Last Supper”, a contemporary image featuring thirteen guests from Glasgow City Mission. With painting happening live in the cafe, our hope was that curiosity in cafe customers would result in conversations about the artwork and the Bible text it is based on. This went exactly as we hoped and the project also received quite a bit of media attention. After the success of the pilot project, three years of funding was secured, including money from Go For It and Scottish Bible Society.
It’s always fascinating to see how people react to the different paintings.
“Our Last Supper” has become like a magnet, with people visiting the church specifically to see the painting. Glasgow City Mission’s work is so lovingly embraced by the people of the city that the painting has become a symbol of the dignity that they bring to the lives of those most in need.
Many conversations revolve around “Do Not Worry?”. Taking the birds of the air and flowers of the field which Jesus refers to and contrasting them with a familiar situation where worry is ever present, brings discussions about faith, doubt, worry and hope in the midst of everyday troubles.
Do Not Worry short video film.
Most people are aware that St George’s Tron had a “hard reboot” several years ago. In 2013, Rev Alastair Duncan became the new minister to a church with no congregation. Five years later, the church is thriving, with an active congregation, three services, and a café which (at the time of writing) is ranked 24th of 1,983 café’s and restaurants in Glasgow by Trip Advisor. Thanks to the generosity of customers donating to the “gifted soup/coffee scheme” people experiencing homelessness are fed every day.
Scottish Bible Society have recently published “The Portrait Gospel”, an edition of the Gospel of Luke with “Our Last Supper” as the cover image, with an additional thirteen black-and-white portraits of Glasgow City Mission guests throughout the book. Also planned, is a full-colour edition of Luke’s Gospel, with all twenty-four paintings from the “Gospel Sketchbook” project, and a tour of the paintings too.
Iain D Campbell is a Glasgow based portrait painter, and artist in residence at St George’s Tron in Glasgow. The church is receiving a Go For It main grant for their Gospel Sketchbook project where Iain is currently painting his way through the Gospel of Luke, painting well know Bible passages in a modern Glasgow context and video documenting the process.
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