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St Mary’s Redcliffe in Bristol Replaces Controversial Stained Glass Window with Diverse Depictions of Jesus

St Mary’s Redcliffe, an iconic church in Bristol, has taken a significant step towards addressing the legacy of slavery by officially unveiling a new stained glass window that replaces the controversial depiction of slave trader Edward Colston. 

The new window, designed by competition winner Ealish Swift, portrays Jesus in multiple ethnicities and refugees in a boat, symbolizing a powerful message of diversity and compassion.

The replacement of the stained glass window comes in the wake of the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in the heart of Bristol during the events of 2020. This incident triggered a nationwide reflection on the historical ties to slavery and colonialism, prompting various institutions, including churches, to reevaluate their own connections to figures associated with the dark chapters of history.

St Mary’s Redcliffe, known for its historical significance and architectural grandeur, faced a unique challenge with four stained-glass windows dedicated to Edward Colston. The church decided to temporarily remove the windows and initiate a public competition to devise an alternative design that would better align with the values of inclusivity and social justice.

Ealish Swift, the victor of the competition, conceptualized a series of images featuring a ‘non-white’ Jesus depicted in a variety of multicultural scenarios. The centerpiece of the new window showcases Jesus in diverse ethnicities, a portrayal that celebrates the cultural richness of Bristol’s past and present. 

Accompanying this central depiction, the window also illustrates refugees in a boat, emphasizing the plight of displaced individuals and the urgency of providing empathy and refuge.

The Church of England’s Bristol court granted approval for the replacement window in June, marking a pivotal moment in the church’s journey towards a more inclusive narrative. The successful installation of the new window was overseen by the court, signifying a collective commitment to a more diverse representation within places of worship.

A spokesperson from St Mary’s Redcliffe expressed that the new designs not only serve as a visual representation but also reflect the city’s vibrant multicultural heritage. The unveiling of the window comes as a statement of progress, acknowledging the pain of history while also signaling a step forward in embracing a more inclusive future.

Earlier in the year, the Vicar of St Mary’s Redcliffe, Canon Dan Tyndall, acknowledged the significance of the moment.

He stated that “the toppling of Edward Colston turned an international spotlight onto Bristol and its entangled history profiting, as it most certainly did, from human trafficking. 

The opportunity to reimagine how we can tell the story of the Good Samaritan was grasped enthusiastically by the church.”

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