From General Convention to Clifton, Homeless Jesus calls us to love
In the first few days of the General Convention, a life-size bronze statue created by Canadian artist Timothy P. Schmalz graced the exhibit hall of the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. Folks could be seen walking away from the exhibit with a box containing a tabletop model of the sculpture of Jesus sleeping on a park bench, donated by the artist and quickly distributed to a lucky few. It became clear that the statue was creating quite a stir, and that few people knew that Calvary Church, Clifton (Cincinnati) had recently become home to a copy of the statue.
In a brochure about his sculptures, Schmalz says this about the Homeless Jesus: “Inspired by Matthew: 25, this sculpture is a representation that suggests Christ is with the most marginalized in our society. The sculpture has sparked discussion among Christians worldwide. Pope Francis blessed the original model in November 2013, and since that time there have been more than a dozen full-scale bronze casts made for cities that span seven countries.”
Episcopal churches in New York and North Carolina have seen differing responses by their communities to the installation of the statue at their congregations. (See an April/May 2014 Connections article) While one sparked offerings of money, books and clothing for the homeless, another created the opposite reaction – offense – at this depiction of Jesus. Calvary has the distinction (and responsibility) of being the only faith community in the Cincinnati metropolitan area permitted to display any version of this sculpture. The work resides permanently in the new George E. Ferguson Memorial Garden. The statue was unveiled June 14.
The congregation hopes that this public work of art will be a constant reminder to present and future generations of the Church’s fundamental mission of outreach and love.
The Rev. Jason Leo, rector of Calvary, says this, “Great art that provokes a response – bad or good – affords people the opportunity for dialogue. We look forward to sharing in conversation about the church’s commitment to the homeless population in our city.”
Sean Moore, a student at Walnut Hills High School and a Boy Scout with Troop 161 (which meets at Calvary) decided to set the stage for the statue through his Eagle Scout project. He laid the foundation for the statue and provided the landscaping and additional seating. The statue was funded through special giving from individuals and groups both within and beyond Calvary Church.
As I sat and visited with the statue at Calvary on a blisteringly hot midday, the compelling nature of the figure drew from me prayers of repentance, love, gratitude and hope. It is a reminder that our Lord had no place to lay his head. Those of us who have the blessing of climate-controlled shelter are encouraged by this work of art to reach beyond our own comfort and offer a cup of water to those who live on park benches – and sit with those who are wounded, lonely, and cold – and have a conversation.
Anne Reed serves as Canon for Mission in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.