An art exhibition including a painting that depicts the baby Jesus and his mother Mary as refugees in a camp in Calais will be held this December in St John’s East Dulwich.

The massive 8ft square painting called ‘Our Lady of Calais’ will hang in the sanctuary where the altar normally sits throughout Advent and Christmas and will form the backdrop to all the activities and services at St John’s this December.

First exhibited in St Paul’s Cathedral, the painting will form part of an exhibition called ‘What are you expecting?’ that the organisers hope will get people thinking about the true meaning of Christmas.

‘For many of us, Christmas is a lot about our expectations of presents and parties’ said Curate, Reverend Raymond Baudon, ‘but we hope these paintings will get people to encounter the meaning of Christmas in an unexpected way. We know the nativity story so well, that we forget Jesus was born to what might be described today as a homeless migrant family.’

The exhibition opens on Sunday 1st December at 3pm with a special service of blessing and dedications led by the Rt Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark. At the service the Elm Singers will be singing Britten’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’ and there will be a drinks reception after the service. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The exhibition runs right through until 29th December and is open every day from 9:30am.

As part of the project, the artist Sara Mark will be leading workshops with local school children to respond to the art. Local artists are also invited to come at any time with their materials to respond to the artwork in their own way. However, there will be a special artists’ open day on Saturday 7th December. St John’s will be taking part in the Artists’ Open House weekends in May next and as a legacy of this December exhibition artists are invited to submit works to be displayed in May based on the themes explored in the exhibition.

A programme of events runs alongside the exhibition, including on 8th December the owner of ‘Our Lady of Calais’ will be in conversation with the development officer from St Paul’s cathedral who commissioned the painting. There will also be a talk that afternoon by Dr Jennifer Craig-Norton about her book re-examining the Kindertransport called ‘The Kindertransport: Contesting Memory’.

Please see the listings pages to find out what else is going on throughout December. If you would like more information about the exhibition then please contact Rev Raymond Baudon at St John’s: