Reflections on the Orthodox faith and life in this crazy 21st century world by an Orthodox priest and a few of his friends.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Attack of the 170-Foot Cross
Those of you who know me well know that I was raised a nominal Episopalian, and that in college I became a Southern Baptist, remaining such until Jennifer and I began the process of converting to Orthodoxy in 2001. In high school, my best friend was a devout Southern Baptist who attended a large church called Sagemont Baptist Church (which, along with thousands of other Baptist churches, later dropped "Baptist" from their name in order to appeal to a wider audience). I often would go to Sagemont with him, particularly to revivals and youth events.
When Jennifer and I returned to the Houston area after serving for five years as missionaries in Eastern Europe, we ended up buying a home that was only about a mile or so from Sagemont. Since we last attended there in 1998, the church has continued to grow, both in numbers and in wealth. Now they are in a massive building campaign. Part of that campaign includes the erection of a cross that is 170 feet high (they originally wanted it to be 200 feet, high, but the FAA made them reduce the height). I pass by the cross an average of two or three times a week.
As you might imagine, the cross has caused a wide variety of reaction, with some being opposed to the cross and others being in favor of it. Here is an excerpt from a story about the cross that appeared in the February 12 edition of the South Belt Leader, our small, weekly hometown newsletter. The writer's name is James Bolen.
Last week, Sagemont Church constructed a massive cross on its property near Beltway 8.
In the works since 2007, the completed structure stands 170 feet tall with a span of 60 feet at the horizontal beam. It is made of painted steel and weighs 90 tons and took three days to erect.
The purpose of the cross is to positively inspire passing drivers, according the Sagemont Church' senior pastor, Dr. John D. Morgan.
"We hope everyone who drives by will be reminded how much God loves them," he said.
Like all other Sagemont projects, the cross was being built debt-free. Morgan noted that the cross has not borrowed money since 1975, allowing Sagemont to do other things with money that many churches spend on interest each year.
This past year, the church spent approximately $1.5 million on local and global mission efforts. The church also gave a large sum to aid the community after Hurricane Ike, just as it did after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Morgan declined to put a monetary price tage on the structure, but humbly said, "It cost God his son and Jesus his life."
Due to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the cross will be lit at night, allowing it to be seen for several miles in any direction.
The base of the structure features a 2,500 square-foot platform designed to accommodate weddings, Bible study classes, and other special events throughout the year. The platform hovers over a small lake that includes an area for baptisms. The bank of the lake features an amphitheater designed to seat approximately 250 people. Two walkways connect the amphitheater to the platform...
...The cross structure is complete, but final details on the project will be finished over the next few weeks. Upon completion, the cross area will be open to the public at all times for people to come pray, picnic, or just look.
Now, if the cross just had two more bars on it...
So, what are YOUR thoughts about this cross? Your comments are not only appreciated, they are actively sought.