'Homeless Jesus' sculpture gets praise in Tampa Bay area

Homeless Jesus, a sculpture by Timothy Schmalz, depicts Christ as he was in the Gospels, the artist says.
Homeless Jesus, a sculpture by Timothy Schmalz, depicts Christ as he was in the Gospels, the artist says.
Published Apr. 16, 2014

A life-size sculpture depicting Christ as homeless has grabbed headlines and set off a debate.

The $22,000 bronze statue erected outside St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Davidson, N.C., portrays Jesus lying on a park bench, everything but his crucifixion-scarred feet shrouded by a blanket.

The artwork challenges the Western world portrayal of Jesus as blonde-haired, gold-adorned and glowing, said Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz. Some Davidson residents get it. Others consider the piece, purchased by the church to honor a deceased member, an insult to their neighborhood and God.

Reaction from two local officials praised the portrayal. Paul Wirth, senior pastor at Relevant Church in Ybor City, said the sculpture has it right.

"There's never any real indication in the Scriptures that Jesus had a home," Wirth said. "I don't think the statue is going too far at all."

Eleanor Saunders, missions coordinator at BayLife Church in Brandon, also supports the depiction.

"Jesus was very clear when he said foxes have their dens, birds have their nests but I have no place to lay my head," Saunders said. "He was homeless. I think people have a hard time with it because they want to think of Jesus as powerful, because he was, but he was also a preacher traveling by foot. He was dependent on people."

Schmalz can re-create the sculpture upon request. In addition to the Davidson piece, there is currently one in Chicago. Arrangements are being made with the archdiocese to bring the piece to Washington D.C, Schmalz said.

In 2013, he took a model of the sculpture to the Vatican, where Pope Francis prayed at its side.

"The message is that when we see the most marginalized in our society, we are seeing Jesus," Schmalz said. "I want to find a home for homeless Jesus in cities across the world."

Miniatures and photos of the work are available for purchase at


Bay Life Church, 1017 Kingsway Road, Brandon, will present Journey to the Cross, a walk-through depicting Jesus' last days on earth, from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday. Parental discretion is advised. For more information, visit or call (813) 661-3696.

Clair-Mel First Assembly of God, 2415 S 78th St., Tampa, will host a Flashlight Egg Hunt from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday. Children ages five to 12 will be divided into groups to search for candy-filled eggs. For more information, call (813) 626-0087.

South Shore United Methodist Church, 11525 Big Bend Road, Riverview, invites families to breakfast with the Easter bunny from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday. An egg hunt will take place at 9 a.m. The event is free. For more information, call (813) 677-8482.

Forrest Hills United Methodist Church, 904 W Linebaugh Ave., Tampa, will host an egg hunt from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. For more information, call (813) 932-8081.

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Relevant Church, 1704 N 16th St., will host an Easter celebration Sunday with services at 8:45, 10 and 11:15 a.m., followed by a family fun day featuring a petting zoo, bouncy houses and live music by Julianna Zobrist. For more information, visit or call (813) 242-4800.

Christ Fellowship of Tampa, 300 E Sligh Ave., will host egg hunts following 10 a.m. and 11:10 a.m. Easter Sunday worship services. For more information, call (813) 238-5673.