'Homeless Jesus' statue to be unveiled this weekend

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- A controversial statue portraying Jesus as a homeless man has arrived in the Valley. The statue will be officially unveiled Sunday, November 23 at 11:30 a.m., at Ascension Lutheran Church.

The life-size bronze sculpture, Homeless Jesus, is designed to stir up compassion, reflection and unease among onlookers. Created by Canadian sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz, Homeless Jesus is a representation that suggests Christ is with the most marginalized in our society.

The Christ figure is shrouded in a blanket. The visible wounds on the feet are the only indication that it is Jesus.

"It gives a message as to who we are as a community," says Jayne Baker, Community Outreach Ministry. "We care for the lost, the least and the little. This speaks volumes without saying a word."

In 2013, Pope Francis blessed the original wooden statue of Homeless Jesus, following a meeting with the artist. The wooden statue will remain in the Vatican until a location for the full-size sculpture is identified in Rome.

Ascension will be the exclusive location for the sculpture in Phoenix. Currently, four other major markets worldwide also have a sculpture. The sculpture's powerful image has sparked controversy in other cities. In fact, residents of other cities have asked for this statute to be removed.

"It's probably because this statue, as an art form, is a bit confronting to people," says Baker. "People sometimes think that Jesus was never homeless."

The church installed a new water station in close proximity to Homeless Jesus to welcome the many hikers and bikers that use Mockingbird Lane regularly. Additionally, miniature statues will be available for purchase through Ascension, with all proceeds to directly benefit the church's outreach ministries.

The official dedication of the statue will be held Sunday, November 23 at 11:30 a.m. "The dedication is an invitation to everyone - church-goers and non-church goers, to be part of a community that cares for one another," says Reverend Ryan Hersch, pastor of Ascension. "This statue is for all of us."

The dedication and reception will follow the regularly scheduled 10 a.m. worship service and is open to the public.

Ascension Lutheran Church
7100 N. Mockingbird Lane
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253
(Near Scottsdale Rd. & Indian Bend)