Wednesday, 30 March 2016

No room for Christ in Westminster?

In bureaucratic language Westminster Council dismissed the value of a world class sculpture, copies of which are to be found in The Vatican, Washington DC, Toronto and Madrid. The press release issued by Methodist Central Hall, tells the full story below. Also, scroll to the end of this post to find a link to the petition asking the Council to change its decision.

An application to install a bronze sculpture of ‘The Homeless Jesus’ at the front of Methodist Central Hall Westminster has been refused by the City of Westminster Council.

The application, which received several hundred on-line endorsements on the Development Planning website from people all over the country, was refused because “the proposed sculpture would fail to maintain or improve the character or appearance of the… Parliament Square Conservation Area” owing to “its location within the City Council’s Monument Saturation Zone”.

‘The Homeless Jesus’, created by internationally renowned sculpture Timothy Schmalz is of a life-sized figure sleeping on a park bench, covered with a blanket, his exposed feet bearing nail marks of crucifixion.  Schmalz describes the work as ‘a visual translation of core Christian values’.  The ‘Homeless Jesus’ gained international fame in 2013 when Pope Francis blessed the model and stated that is was a ‘beautiful and excellent representation’ of Jesus.

Permission has very recently been given for ‘The Homeless Jesus’ to be located in The Vatican in Rome and there are other sculptures around the world in Toronto, Washington DC and Madrid.

Revd. Dr. Martyn Atkins, Team Leader at Methodist Central, Westminster said, “Homelessness is increasingly a global issue, and we are witnessing what many say is the largest ever migration of people in Europe and North Africa. London is a leading world city and the positive symbolic effect of placing ‘The Homeless Jesus’ here in Westminster would be enormous.

“As a church we are extremely disappointed at the refusal of this application. We’re led to the unfortunate conclusion that a sculpture of Jesus, depicted as homeless, isn’t welcome in Westminster and so close to the Houses of Parliament. I imagine many people will find the Council suggestion that this particular piece of public art would somehow lower the tone of the neighbourhood insulting and ironic.

“Homelessness is real in Central London.  I hope that Westminster City Council will reconsider and see the positive impact that The Homeless Jesus can have in drawing public attention to the plight of homeless and dislocated people.’

“On Good Friday, Catholics from Westminster Cathedral, Anglicans from Westminster Abbey, Methodists from the Central Hall and many other local Christian churches will walk silently through Westminster to remember the death of Jesus Christ. The symbolic wooden cross heading the procession – for which the Council grants permission each year – will be carried by representatives of ‘The Passage’, a charity for homeless people supported by the Churches of Westminster over many years. In the context of the refusal of our application the irony is inescapable.

“We are now considering appealing the refusal and our hope would be that the Council will take our views into consideration and overturn their decision.   We are asking people who support The Homeless Jesus being situated outside Methodist Central Hall to sign an on-line petition, located here,

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Brussels – a response from Michaela Youngson on behalf of the District Chairs of the London Methodist District


It is with shock and deep sadness that we have again witnessed the murder of people going about their everyday lives. Londoners will watch the news of the explosions in Brussels and will remember the attacks on public transport in July 2005. The images and memories are vivid and remind us again of the vulnerability of life and the willingness of a handful of people to assert their own agenda through acts of terror and violence.

In the past few days lives have also been lost in Afghanistan, Pakistan and in many other places, often with little coverage on western media. Each life lost in an airport, market place, metro station or school is a cost too great. In the great complexity of the political realities that surround us it is tempting to lose sight of those individual lives and to feel helpless. Yet in all of the acts of cruelty that we witness, we see people putting their own lives at risk to help the injured and the vulnerable, we see people of different faiths standing in solidarity with each other, we see courage that we only hope we might demonstrate in the same circumstances.

As we consider the most unholy of actions in the midst of our Holy Week reflections, I pray that we will notice the acts of human decency and dignity in the midst of the carnage and chaos. When we consider again the cross of Jesus and his divine humanity, Ipray that we will not be blind to the common humanity we share with our neighbours.

Many of our Muslim brothers and sisters receive abuse, verbal and physical, when such events as have happened in Brussels take place and there is a great deal of pressure on the Islamic communities in the our city. Whilst we may feel helpless in the face of violence and events in Syria, we are able to be peacemakers in our own context. Consider ways in which you and your church can develop friendships with Muslim neighbours in your own community. Pray for their flourishing and the well-being of people of all faiths and none and reflect the sacrificial love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

A prayer by Tony Miles:

Suffering God,

we pray for the injured, dying and grieving.

May they receive help, comfort and healing.

When terrorism is rife,

may we not give in to despair,

for ultimately only enduring love

can triumph over evil, sin and death.

May the Spirit of Jesus

enable faith, hope and love to rise up,

with justice and peace. 


© Anthony D. Miles - March 2016