Anyone passing the main gate of Holy Trinity Church in Braamfontein will be confronted by the disconcerting and provocative sculpture of a homeless person lying on a park bench. The figure is completely covered by a blanket, except for the feet which are exposed. The feet carry the familiar crucifixion wounds, which identify the person as Jesus.
The bronze sculpture known as ‘Jesus the Homeless’ is the work of Candadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz. It has been described as a visual translation of Matthew’s Gospel: “as long as you did it to one of the least of my people, you did it to me,” and reminds us that our faith needs to be characterised by active compassion for the marginalised.
Fr Graham Pugin received the statue as a donation. There is one displayed on each continent, and we were chosen as the African ‘home’ for the statue.
At a beautifully moving ceremony at Holy Trinity, hundreds of homeless people joined parishioners, clergy and friends to witness the unveiling and blessing of the sculpture. After Fr Graham blessed the sculpture, he invited each person present to do the same. So Jesus the Homeless came to be blessed by the many homeless people who gather in the church hall for Bible Study every Monday night, followed by a meal.
Passers by stop at the gate to gaze on the statue or pray – and there is space on the bench where one can sit and contemplate.
[with acknowledgement to Sr Joy Money]