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come to know: A Place at the Table

26th February - 18th April 2022

Come to Know is a series of art interventions in the atrium at St Peter’s Harrogate. The project title is taken from the words of St Peter when he says of Christ ‘we have believed and come to know that you are the holy one of God’. The aim of the project is to offer visitors and guests the opportunity to ponder meaning and faith through the visual.

The first intervention, A Place at the Table, started with a print of Iain Campbell’s painting Our Last Supper, by kind permission of the artist. The original artwork resides at St George’s Church Tron, Glasgow where it was completed as part of an artist's residency. The Last Supper is the central image to Christianity; it is round this table that Jesus said, ‘remember me’. Guests of Glasgow City Mission, who work with the homeless, were selected as the models. People often ask, “which of the people in the painting is Jesus?” It felt important to Iain that no one stood out as a conventional Christ figure, reflecting a bible passage which says ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? And he will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

St Peter’s offer meals on a regular basis to the homeless and so this picture has a huge resonance for this particular faith community. To complement Iain’s painting and to connect his themes with the life of the church we invited artist Shirley Hudson to draw and paint portraits of some of our guests. Shirley Hudson is an artist based in Nidd who paints landscape and portraits. Her most recent portrait project was for the NHS Heroes series, in which she created paintings of essential health workers during lockdown. Portraits she has made for A Place at the Table will be gifted to those she has depicted at the end of this show.

Many faiths incorporate feasting and eating as central rituals to their beliefs: the weekly Shabbat of Judaism, the Itfar breaking of the Ramadan fast in Islam, the inclusive Langar meal of the Sikhs and Communion, the meal of Christians: often a weekly rite of remembrance and celebration, based on the story of the Last Supper and a development of the Jewish Passover. All are welcome to this table.

The last two years have been tough on all of us, and many have eaten alone through no choice of their own and so shared meals have become hugely significant. In the past it was a Christian tradition to lay an extra place at the meal table for the ‘unseen guest’ and in another part of the bible it says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have welcomed angels without knowing it.” In an age of increased individualism and separatism where loneliness is rife, maybe we need to consider who would we invite to our table and ‘entertain angels unawares’.

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