Members of Liverpool’s homeless community have unveiled the City’s own ‘Homeless Jesus’ sculpture before it was blessed by the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool. This sculpture has taken the world by storm, and there are copies of it from Washington DC to Florence, and even one in Manchester.
On Thursday 4 April Liverpool’s own version was unveiled in St Nicholas’ Church Gardens, the City Centre’s most popular green space. The bronze sculpture by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz shows a figure lying on a bench, with the wounds of Christ visible on his feet.
The sculpture was unveiled as part of a Conference organized by Liverpool Parish Church in collaboration with the Community Foundation Merseyside and chaired by Professor Michael Parkinson from the University of Liverpool. The Conference was aimed at the business community to look at how we can all share in the solution to the homelessness problem which affects the entire City of Liverpool. Speakers at the Conference included Joe Anderson (Mayor of Liverpool), Steve Rotheram (Metro Mayor), Jon Sparkes (CEO of Crisis), Peter Moore (CEO of Liverpool Football Club), Andy Cooke (Chief Constable of Merseyside), with contributions from a number of private sector organizations. 200 delegates from across the City attended, and the Conference ended with specific plans for positive action to combat homelessness.
The Rector of Liverpool, the Revd Canon Dr Crispin Pailing, said, “Homelessness is not just a challenge to us as a City community, but can also be a challenge to us individually. We want to help, but we don’t always know how. I hope that the Conference will help us all become part of a solution. The unveiling of the sculpture in the City Centre’s most popular green space will present us with a daily challenge. There is space for you to sit on the bench: would you choose to sit next to a homeless person? Would you sit on a bench next to Jesus?”
The sculpture was made by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz who explained how he would like the sculpture to be seen: “I am grateful for this installation of the Homeless Jesus in Liverpool. The work is being installed in cities all around the world, I see them forming a bronze chain that links us all with the common hope of a more companionate world. Hopefully when one walks by this sculpture it will be like getting a slap in the face, making one think of the sacredness of all. Hopefully when a homeless human walks by, it will be an embrace. Christianity is hardcore.”
The unveiling of the sculpture was done by residents and service users of Liverpool YMCA before it was blessed by the Bishop of Liverpool. YMCA Liverpool and Sefton was founded in 1846 and has provided services to vulnerable people ever since. Their mission is to inspire and support people by promoting choice and independence, valuing the individual, maximising potential and instilling hope. Ellie McNeil, CEO of YMCA Liverpool and Sefton said, “We’re delighted to support the instillation of the statue of Homeless Jesus and believe it further highlights the needs of homeless people in our city and the commitment to being an inclusive society. As an organisation, we continue to campaign to break down the barriers that homeless people face in getting permanent accommodation and accessing training, education and employment opportunities. Today’s conference showcases what can happen when all the sectors in the city come together to tackle an issue.”