At one time when Tony White was immersed in a sea of figures with one arm raised they were performing a neo-Nazi salute.
But now when surrounded by people with their arms held up it is by those who are praying for him.
The sculptor, who once headed up National Front demonstrations in Bradford and Leeds, is now a familiar face at an organised gathering of a very different kind. Mr White is among a growing group who have been moved to dramatically change their lives by a new Christian community which was born out of St George’s Church and Crypt in Leeds city centre.
“I’d had a lot of loss in my life and I walked into a church because I couldn’t stop crying,” said Mr White. “I felt out of control and kept praying ‘God help me’, but I picked up a bible and had a light bulb moment. I’ve been given hope, joy and peace, and after joining a couple of Alpha courses I’ve gone on learning from there.”
Mr White is now a regular attender at the Lighthouse Network, a new Christian community for addicts, ex offenders and the homeless, which will mark its first birthday in January.
St George’s Crypt in Leeds has looked after the practical needs of homeless people for over 80 years, but the curate and others at St George’s Church also wanted to develop a Christian community for those on the margins. So ‘The Lighthouse Network’ was formed.
The network was set up to reach out to people on the margins of society, who often go unnoticed.
Reverend John Swales, Lighthouse pastor, said: “Around 40 men and women come on a Sunday and we’ve built a safe community where people who have little reason to trust others have established firm friendships.”