Beauty will save the world…

The London Jesus Centre aims to be a place where people in crisis can find both the resources they need to rebuild their lives and the relationships they need to flourish.

One way to describe the heart of this vision, is as an attempt to reconcile the tension between beauty and utility. Imagine an image of a cathedral, almost anywhere in the world, and one will immediately envisage an icon that has survived centuries of social, spiritual and architectural awe. The predominant reason for this, is that cathedrals have always been constructed to serve a purpose that is both functional and aesthetic; they are created to be both useful and beautiful.  Indeed from the first pages of the Bible we learn of a God who marries these twin virtues in the creation of trees of every kind, both beautiful to the eye and useful for food (See Genesis 2:9)

Herein lies the genius of Christian charity: the gritty tacking of practical needs compelled by extravagant, transcendent love. This should, at least on some level, create a powerful drive to pursue utility without compromising beauty.

Homelessness is a crisis and demands a response that is practical, strategic, effective and quick. We want our services to be useful, produce concrete outcomes and change that is measurable. We are here to get stuff done.

However, our goal is not to pursue utility at any cost. We want our services to be useful, but also beautiful.

In practice this means placing an emphasis not only on the utility of resources, but also on the beauty of relationships. Fundamentally, we seek to meet practical needs in the context of creating community. It matters not just what we do, but how we do it. It means counting numbers, but also remembering names

 We need reminding of this at times lest we become some kind of charity-dispensing, target-driven machine. We are a charity fixing problems, but also a community engaging with people.

The strategic burden of our service model is to define boundaries and priorities in a world of necessary paradox. We embrace people where they are, and we empower them to become what they are not. We equip people and send them on their way, and we journey with them through thick and thin.

We speak here of moral rather than aesthetic beauty. But of beauty nonetheless. Beauty that seems on the service unpractical, non-functional and un-fundable, is the very lifeblood of what it means to restore dignity and create community. Fyodor Dostoyevsky perhaps articulates it best in his masterpiece The Idiot. Beauty is transformative. Beauty changes lives. Beauty could end homelessness. And ultimately….“Beauty will save the world”.

Published 7th February 2020 with tags: Beauty

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