A painting of The Last Supper expresses the spirit of Christian community

Iain Campbell and John Wallace
Artist Iain Campbell and John Wallace with the painting in St George's Tron Church of Scotland.

Homeless men take the place of Jesus and his disciples in The Last Supper, a powerful new painting by Iain Campbell.

Until now Iain may have been best known for his painting of Scotland's top politicians, such as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and party leaders Ruth Davidson and Johann Lamont.

But as artist-in-residence at St Georges Tron Church of Scotland, he knew he wanted to use his artwork to communicate his faith. The subject was the easiest part, Iain says.

"The Last Supper is a central image for Jesus' life. The Last Supper is where Jesus said to the Disciples, 'Remember me'."

At first Iain didn't know exactly who should be in the painting. Then, while visiting Glasgow City Mission, he realised he was looking at them. Asking the men from the City Mission to pose for the painting felt like the most fitting way to express the spirit of the Glasgow community.

"There has been more in the headlines this year about poverty and food banks. This community has really felt it. But people in Glasgow are so generous and this painting represents that."

"The fact that we have chosen clients from the city mission to be in the painting says a lot about what's important to us here."

With homelessness on its doorstep, St George's Tron has forged a strong relationship with Glasgow City Mission. And it puts its money where its heart is. All the proceeds from the new cafe, which opened last October, go to the city mission.

The painting is part of a project at St George's Tron called "The Creative Word: Good News in a Visual Age." A £5000 grant from the Church of Scotland's Go For It fund allowed the Church to employ Iain as its artist-in-residence.

Ewan Clydesdale, City Centre Project Manager, says everyone in the painting was happy to be part of the project.

"For me it is an honoring thing," Ewan said. "These are people we know very well. They are people who have gone through quite difficult stages in their lives.

"We think of the Disciples as super saints but in reality they were real people whose lives were changed by meeting Jesus."

The painting, even though it's not quite finished, got a big thumbs up from two of the men portrayed.

Arthur Curtis, who looks out at us from the front left of the painting, said he was astonished because he had expected it to be much smaller.

"I was stunned by the size of it," he said. "I thought it would be half, quarter the size. It's absolutely brilliant. You've got to give it to him. He has done one heck of a job."

John Wallace, another of the men in the painting, said he first went to the Glasgow City Mission, when he lost his home after splitting up with a partner. Now, he's been a regular visitor for more than four years.

"The city mission is open 24 hours a day," he said. "Some of the people who go there are in a very dark place. But they are open day and night.

"I go up the mission to see my friends. We are all regulars there. And when someone comes in they try to make people feel welcome. You've always got somebody that will talk to you."

John was an atheist before he encountered Christians through groups such as Street Connect, Glasgow City Mission and the Church of Scotland. After a rough childhood, he often felt depressed and suicidal. He also had a store of anger and a temper that got him into trouble when he'd had a drink.

So when his Christian friends suggested prayer, he decided to give it a try.

"I said yes just to keep them happy, but then I started seeing changes. I started getting word back from employers. I got my kids back. I was always the one that got myself in bother, but now I've been in situations and I've chosen to walk away. I've been trouble free for four years now.

"After prayers you feel different. You feel as if something has left you and you are a new person."

"I was a strong atheist. I really was. But over the last couple of years I've seen a real difference. You see a big difference when you accept Christ in your life."

Visit St George's Tron website here.

Visit Glasgow City Mission here.

Find out more about the Go For It Fund here.

Watch the BBC report and read the story at BBC online

Watch the STV report and read the story at STV online