Saint Alban's Homeless Jesus Revisited
Last February a church in Davidson added a new member to its congregation— a life size sculpture of a homeless man asleep on a bench. Look closer and that figure, face covered and wrapped in a blanket, is Jesus, noted by the holes in his feet.
The piece is strategically placed on church property but facing the street, encouraging public interaction. It also generated some controversy when it was first installed.
Reverend David Buck, still gets comments about the Homeless Jesus outside Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church most of them are positive. His favorite emails go like this:
"Hello Reverend Buck, I’m an atheist. I don't believe in any of that religious stuff but you know what? You folks finally got something right.”
He says the sculpture hit a nerve. It forced people to confront an issue they don’t have to deal with.
“It's a good reminder to us of what ultimately matters and that is concern, care, and work with and for the marginalized," he says.
The community debate over the sculpture gained some national attention for which Reverend Buck is thankful. So is Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz.
Schmalz says this was one of his first Homeless Jesus sculptures in America. And the debate has put his work in high demand. There are plans to install similar sculptures in downtown London and Ireland.
The attention the sculpture in Davidson drew helped, but he also thinks not seeing the figure’s face adds to its appeal. It lets people create their own image of Christ.
"It's not European, it's not African, it's not Asian, it becomes everyone," he says.
And Reverend Buck says it attracts people. He recalls one African American woman visiting the sculpture after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. She was also a former police officer.
“She wasn’t religious but she said there was a spiritual power here. She said ‘I drove up from Charlotte just to see your homeless Jesus.’”
Reverend Buck says those are the kind of experiences he continues to have.