(Photo: Courtesy of Timothy P. Schmalz Inc.)
A North Carolina congregation has permanently installed the controversial "Homeless Jesus" sculpture that had been previous rejected by other churches in the United States and Canada.
St. Alban's Episcopal Church of Davidson received the sculpture as a donation and installed "Homeless Jesus" on their property last week.
The Rev. David E. Buck, rector at St. Alban's Episcopal, told The Christian Post that the donated sculpture came "in honor of a former deceased member, Kate MacIntyre, who had been the Davidson Town Public Arts director."
"We believe that art is intrinsically related to spirituality, irrespective of the subject matter. Combined with the subject matter of Jesus, it was for us a no-brainer," said Buck.
"Plus, we are a relatively affluent church in an affluent community. We believe that the Homeless Jesus sculpture very appropriately reminds us of how our faith should find ultimate expression in caring for the marginalized, according to the mandate in Matthew 25:40, 'When you have done it for the least of these, you have done it unto me.'"
Sculpted by Canadian Timothy Schmalz and officially titled "Jesus the Homeless," the sculpture shows Jesus lying on a seven foot long bench covered in a blanket. It's an allusion to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25.
Schmalz made multiple "Jesus the Homeless" sculptures which have received mixed reactions.
The sculpture was recently rejected by two prominent Catholic churches in North America, St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
One local Davidson resident has already told local media that she takes issue with St. Alban Episcopal's granting "Jesus the Homeless" a home.
"Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help … We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy," she said to WTSP 10 News.
Buck of St. Alban's told CP that while he had had "some minor pushback from people who live in this neighborhood," most of the feedback has been positive.
"Church members in this progressive parish knew about it for months and favored this acquisition, and for no cost to the church. Online comments in various websites have been overwhelmingly positive," said Buck.
Lib McGregor Simmons, pastor at nearby Davidson College Presbyterian Church, told The Christian Post that she felt "grateful" to St. Alban's for installing the sculpture.
"I absolutely love that the sculpture has gotten people talking about the issue of homelessness –something that our charming community can easily deceive ourselves into thinking does not exist," said McGregor Simmons.
"I am grateful to the vestry and congregation of St. Alban's Episcopal Church and their rector, David Buck, for wading into the controversy so that our entire community can engage in honest conversation about working together for a more just and equitable community."
Regarding the controversy over the sculpture, McGregor Simmons responded to CP with a question: "Well, people reacted strongly to Jesus back in the first century, didn't they?"
"Following in his way always turns our cherished societal values upside down and calls us to a different way of living," said McGregor Simmons.