First UMC Hot Springs restores historic downtown Jesus mosaic

contributed by Michelle Morris, Lead Equipper of the Center for Vitality

Perhaps you have noticed it as you drove through Hot Springs down Central Avenue. On the street side of First Hot Springs is an 18 foot 9 inch tall Jesus, beautifully portrayed in a mosaic of 488,000 Italian glass tiles, his arms outstretched as he welcomes all to come to him.

If you have noticed it, you are not alone. When FUMC Hot Springs disciples invite people to visit their church, they simply have to say, “It’s the one with the Jesus mosaic.” This incredible work of art is not only identified with the church, but also with Hot Springs itself. That is why, as it had recently fallen into disrepair, a group called “The Friends of the Mosaic Jesus” (comprised of Joyce and Neil Thornton, Steve Fulenwider and Maggie Foster) urged the people of the church to commit to its repair. Pastor David Moseley encouraged the necessary fundraising, noting that “It’s our gift to the City of Hot Springs.”

The restoration began this fall. What had initially cost $374.97 when it was installed in 1965, the mosaic Jesus now totaled around $80,000 to repair. Wendell Norton and his firm, who handled the restoration, were able to use some excess tiles that had been stored in the church since the 1965 installation to help with the work. In December, First UMC celebrated its completion in a service that included city personnel as well.

The next time you find yourself in downtown Hot Springs, keep your eyes and heart open to being welcomed by this beautiful body of Christ.

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