'Homeless Jesus' draws attention in Bay Village

A sculpture of "Homeless Jesus" outside St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.

Through a collaboration with the Community West Foundation, a statue of “Homeless Jesus” was temporarily installed at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church adjacent to the walking path at Bradley Road Park in Bay Village.

The sculpture, created by Timothy Schmalz, depicts a man wrapped in a blanket and lying on a bench. Feet, protruding from beneath the blanket, bear the wounds of crucifixion. The work is a visual representation of Matthew 25:40, the verse quoted at the base of the sculpture: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Homeless Jesus is currently on loan from the Community West Foundation – the largest provider of homeless services in Cuyahoga County – and will be installed at St. Barnabas until Dec. 1.

While homelessness is not a serious issue in Bay Village itself, we don’t have to drive far to find people living on the streets. It is my hope that the art installation will serve as a catalyst for conversation and an inspiration to serve those in need. In the Christian tradition, we believe that all people are created in the image of God – a belief reinforced by Matthew 25:40. Perhaps this sculpture will serve as a reminder of the sacred worth of all people, even those often discarded by society.

The installation is obviously meant to garner attention and spark conversation. However, it has attracted far more media attention than the parish leadership ever anticipated. Much of the media focus has been on the fact that police were dispatched to the sculpture almost immediately after its arrival. This is apparently a common issue with various Homeless Jesus installations around the U.S. and Canada.

The caller surely contacted the police out of genuine concern and the responding officer was excellent: he was extremely professional and interested in learning more about the sculpture and its intended message. We have nothing but gratitude and respect for the Bay Village Police Department.

This reaction to the sculpture speaks to its power as public art. Seeing someone sleeping on a bench in our neighborhood is, without a doubt, jarring. Responses to Homeless Jesus will vary and we are pleased that the sculpture is sparking conversation about how we can best serve those in need.

Maybe seeing the Homeless Jesus will be a reminder that all people are beloved children of God. Maybe it will help us be a bit kinder and gentler with one another, less eager to pass judgment on others.

St. Barnabas is using this as an opportunity to raise funds to directly help our neighbors in need. Anyone interested in contributing may use this link: www.myegiving.com/App/Giving/stbarnabasbv. Select “Homeless Jesus” and every penny raised will be used to feed, clothe, and house those in need in Greater Cleveland.

Alexander Martin

Priest-in-Charge at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village

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Volume 12, Issue 20, Posted 10:26 AM, 10.20.2020