With great joy, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the installation of the “Homeless Jesus” sculpture on the corner of Main and Church streets, and the feeding and clothing services inspired by the sculpture, at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 4.
Buffalo’s “Homeless Jesus” sculpture, created by Canadian artist Tim Schmalz, is one of many artistic expressions by Schmalz around the world. Buffalo, the “City of Good Neighbors,” has welcomed this new sculpture to represent the love and compassion extended to their neighbors by their actions.
In addition to being a site for prayer, the “Homeless Jesus” has inspired caring. Anne Simet, a parishioner of the cathedral, says, “People frequently stopped and sat with him, some brought flowers, others brought bags of food and clothing. Our parishioners saw the immediate impact it was making in the neighborhood and they too brought gloves, hats, scarves to place on the bench with Jesus. I personally saw a man who was visibly shivering staring in my direction and I realized he needed gloves. I quickly picked up a pair of almost new sheepskin gloves and handed them to him. I recall him saying, 'Bless you, bless you.' He then turned and left and I was filled with a sense of joy.”
That has led the St. Paul’s community to add another ministry to help the lives of Buffalonians. The Garden of Love clothing outreach came into being. This ministry, inspired by the generous people of Buffalo and St. Paul’s, started with a simple garden trellis behind the sculpture. Volunteers would pin hats, scarves, bags of toiletries to the trellis throughout the week. After the help of True Bethel’s Food truck for the first year, the Garden of Love ministry expanded to include bagged lunches given away in Cathedral Park once a week.
Michael Bonilla, co-chair of the Garden of Love, says, “After some trial and error, our ministry continues to evolve to fill the needs of our neighbors. We’ve secured weekly donations from Panera Bread, Trader Joes and funds from our outreach ministry to make sandwiches and buy other needed items. Since our ministry has grown, we moved our operation into the first floor of the Flickinger Ministry Center, which is across the street from the ‘Homeless Jesus.’ We were able to offer a warm place for our guests to receive their lunch and look through the racks of free clothes. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to close down our ministry for a few months and temporarily suspend the use of the building for food and clothing distribution.”
But that setback didn’t deter the people of St. Paul’s Cathedral. They found a way to accommodate the CDC guidelines and to keep everyone safe and respond to human need at the same time. St. Paul’s has moved the ministry back outside near the “Homeless Jesus” and will continue to hand out bagged lunches every Sunday at noon. Mask wearing and social distancing practices are enforced.
“Our Garden of Love volunteers were anxious to get back to helping our neighbors, so this was the first implementation of reopening the St. Paul’s campus following the COVID-19 shutdown” says the Very Rev. Derrick Fetz, dean of the Cathedral. “It has become very important to take care of each other like Jesus invites us to do in Matthew 25:35: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’ Our next phase is to solicit other churches or groups, who might wish to join us in this important endeavor.”
For more information on or to support the Garden of Love, call St. Paul’s at 716-855-0900 or email [email protected].