The eyes of the world focused on the Catholic community in Uckfield, East Sussex, as a sculpture depicting a modern-day Christ was unveiled on the church tower.
‘Jesus in jeans sculpture unveiled’ and ‘Jesus in jeans statue depicts Christ as a cool dude’ were just two of the headlines which flashed across the globe delighting parish priest Fr David Buckley and Baroness Cumberlege who led the committee which commissioned the work.
The Pope’s ambassador to this country, the papal nuncio Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz, unveiled the sculpture on Sunday (May 17) and the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton the Rt Rev Kieran Conry blessed it.
Fr David said afterwards that while he had previously thought the ceremony would mark an end of the story he now wondered whether it was just the beginning.
‘I am sure there is going to be a lot of interest in the sculpture in the future. People from newspapers on the other side of the world have been ringing at all times, day and night, seeking comments about it,’ said Fr David.
Lewes-based sculptor Marcus Cornish told Sunday’s congregation he had felt a little like a medieval stone carver as he worked on the figure behind the church while soaking up the community atmosphere.
Schoolchildren played in a neighbouring field and people regularly called in to see how he was getting on.
Marcus said he had wanted to convey that Christ was not an historic figure but very much a part of life in the 21st century.
While he was shown ascending he was also reaching down to us as we walked through the church door, aiming to help and encourage us.
Bishop Kieran said the sculpture was a celebration of the church community’s imagination. He congratulated the committee which pushed the project through and Marcus who had given the vision flesh.
He said the image would draw attention to the church community and the presence of Christ.
The papal nuncio also congratulated the parish saying a love of God and each other could clearly be seen within it.
The unveiling of the sculpture marked the end of major works to refurbish the church which included creating a new parish room.
All this was made possible by a bequest, commemorated on a plaque at the church entrance, from a generous benefactor the late Winifred Gregory.