A new sculpture in Manchester is making people in our city centre think about Jesus Christ in a new way. The sculpture is not of Jesus as a baby or Jesus on a cross, or even Christ in glory. This time Jesus is depicted as a homeless man lying on a bench.
The work “Jesus the Homeless” is by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, and is one of a series of casts in cities around the world including Washington DC, Dublin, Glasgow and Singapore. This one was rejected by planners in Westminster but granted planning permission by Manchester City Council. It has been installed outside St Ann’s Church on St Ann Street in the central retail district.
The statue was unveiled in April 23rd 2018 by two homeless men called Dave and Ian and blessed by the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David Walker, who said, “Jesus is very explicit in the Bible – when we offer or refuse care to those in need, we will be judged as though he himself were the needy person before us.”
St Ann’s Church raised the money to place the statue in front of its church building. The church is active in helping homeless people in the city, including a new project called ‘Morning Hours’, in which hot drinks and toast are provided to rough sleepers before day centres open.
Rector of St Ann’s Church, the Revd Nigel Ashworth, said the artwork would ‘challenge passers-by to question their attitude towards homeless and marginalised people that they come across in their day-to-day lives’.
Philippa Hanna came to Manchester riding high on the success of her most recent alt-country album, Come Back Fighting. Best known within Contemporary Christian music, Philippa Hanna is making a name for herself in various places and platforms. She’s been getting radio time from the likes of Bob Harris and turning heads in Nashville. Her recent music has been likened to The Shires, spanning pop and country, both feisty and soul-baring.
On a cold Wednesday night, The Night & Day Cafe, the stylish Northern Quarter venue was comfortably full of people aged 18 to granny. The evening started with local singer Becky Higg, who brought some plaintive acoustic numbers. Her highlight was, “Hold me Tight”, a reflection on finding hope in depression.
Second on was another Manchester performer, Lily-Jo, who sings pop with a fighting edge. Lily Jo is bold and magnetic, oozing confidence. She struck this reviewer as sounding like Philippa Hanna as she was ten years ago.
Lily-Jo sang “Beautiful Scars” and told us about her Lily-Jo Project, which supports people with mental health issues. She gave us her finest song, “Good Enough” and finished with “Unstoppable”, a song released with Philippa Hanna, which to my taste was a bit too preachy. But Lily-Jo is one to watch.
Then came the main act, Philippa Hanna, with her “A Team” band – her husband Joel Cana on drums, his brother Josh on bass and keys and the brilliant Roo Walker on lead.
Most of Philippa’s 80 minutes comprised nine of the ten tracks from the Come Back Fighting album, but with less of a Nashville sound than the commercial release. The set started off with the title track and the standout “Off the Wagon”.
Most songs were introduced with the stories behind them, and nearly all of these were personal – her struggles, her fears and her passions. Between the songs there were a lot of stories of anxiety and depression and cancer. One song, Million Flowers, was written for the death of child. These were songs from the heart.
But there was also joy, and the joy was mainly in the music itself, which affirmed love and the power of survival, and a faith in Jesus Christ which carries hope in every note. The music is of the highest quality. Here is a singer reaching new heights, confident in her skin, skilled and talented and bold and powerful.
For one song, “Do the Unthinkable” Philippa even put down her guitar, which does seem to be her comfort-blanket at times, and sang without its support. Also included in this set was her recent cover of the Ed Sheeran smash “Perfect” with lyrics adapted to make them refer to the love of Jesus. This is slightly cheesy of course, but very well pulled-off and has had remarkable success on social media.
Overall, Manchester was treated to three female singers of the highest calibre, all singing of a Christian faith that gives strength to life. The whole evening rang with faith that empowers women, and all people. Such gigs bring hope and fortitude to the soul as well as a rocking good night out.
Philippa Hanna’s Set List
(all songs from the album Come Back Fighting 2017 unless indicated)
Michael Harvey, who came up with the idea of Back to Church Sunday while he was working with Manchester Anglican Diocese, is now spearheading its successor, the Weekend of Invitation. The Weekend, which runs from June 15 to 17 2018, encourages people in churches to invite people to events at their home or at their church.
Michael wants to emphasise that success is not whether the people being invited say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an invitation to a church event, success is the faithfulness of doing the inviting. The response, he says, is down to God.
Manchester, as you know, is a vibrant city. It’s a city with faith in itself and faith in its people.
It’s also a city where many people have a vibrant Christian faith. That faith doesn’t make them boring. It makes them committed to their city, committed to their communities, committed to serving in innovative ways. Christians have faith in a God who loves the world and wants to see the world better than it is: more loving, more caring, more just, more green, more healthy, more prosperous.
The vision of Faith in Manchester is to showcase that vibrant Christian faith in our city and region. A team of creative local people want to put together a website, social media presence, maybe a podcast, that will host and feature content from Christians across Greater Manchester. That content will be stories, pictures, audio and video. It will tell tales of good work going on. It will carry the stories of lives being changed. It will showcase regional events and activities.
Faith in Manchester aims to serve the Church in Greater Manchester by sharing what we’re doing with each other. This should serve to encourage and to build us up, to draw us together and showcase best practice. It will cause us to pray for one another.
Faith in Manchester aims to serve the Church in Greater Manchester by bringing what Christians are doing to the attention of the wider media and the wider world. It’s hard to get the message out there, but our ministry could be an amplifier of the work of the churches and ministries its serves, to make our message heard a little louder. Because we have a wider audience in mind, we will try hard not to use Christian jargon and assume people know what Churches are talking about.
Faith in Manchester also has a dream, a wider vision, to replicate this work in other city regions and areas across the UK. Now that is thinking big!
Please pray for the work of Faith in Manchester. Please. We mean it.
Please share this site with your church, your group and your ministry.