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Seventy-five thousand cars pass the site on Interstate 75 every day, most oblivious of the cluster of brick buildings between the Bonny Oaks and Shallowford Road exits on the east side of the highway.
By the end of the week, nobody who passes The Crossing Church will be able to miss it.
A 125-foot-high cross, the tallest in the area, flanked by two 100-foot crosses, will mark the Church of God congregation. The smaller crosses are about as tall as downtown’s Krystal Building and Sheraton Read House, while the tallest is about as high as Patten Towers and the DoubleTree Hotel.
The Rev. Terry Harris, senior pastor of Crossing Church, said the crosses — a $700,000 project — are meant as a daily witness to passers-by.
“We believe the crosses will represent a bold reminder to all who pass by of Jesus’ sacrificial death for their sins,” he said.
The white, tempered-steel crosses are being installed over several days by Headrick Cos. of Laurel, Miss., which also designed and manufactured them. The crosses, which are not close to any residential property and nearly 200 feet from the highway, will be lit at night and, in six weeks, will be surrounded by a prayer walk on the ground at their feet. There, visitors will be invited to walk a path and observe the 13 stages of the cross, artistic representations of the last hours of Christ.
“We hope it will help people put [the story of the crucifixion] together,” Harris said. “That’s what we want them to be able to do.”
Matt Largen, project manager and account representative for Headrick, said the three-cross cluster is one of only a handful of its size it has erected in the country. Headrick has installed taller single crosses — up to 199 feet — but no trio that’s larger than these, he said.
The crosses required four trailers of materials to transport from Mississippi, according to Largen. The company also sent two cranes and “a pretty decent crew of people” to erect the crosses, he said, but even so, a local crane service also was hired.
“It’s a challenging project,” he said.
Each cross is fabricated in three pieces — the upright, the cross arm and the top, Largen said. The crosses are tapered from top to bottom and in from each arm.
“The design is a little unique,” he said. “It’s a nice look.”
Chattanooga architects Rardin & Carroll developed a multiphase master plan — including the crosses’ plaza — for an update of the entire eight-acre Crossing Church facilities nearly four years ago. At the time, said architect Steve Carroll, the firm handled all the zoning and other permitting from the city that might be necessary for the crosses and any future building.
In doing so, the Tennessee Department of Transportation was consulted about how far away the crosses were from the interstate in the unlikely case they fell, and the Federal Aviation Administration was notified in case there were any potential height restrictions. Balloons even were raised to determine the best visibility of the crosses for passers-by.
“There were quite a few things we had to verify,” Carroll said. “The location shifted around a couple of times.”
Harris, pastor of the church since 1994, said the germination of the crosses came nearly 10 years ago when the congregation, then in East Ridge, bought the property from Woodland Park Baptist Church. The geography of the move dictated a name change, and the pastor said it was “in my heart to name it” The Crossing and erect crosses on the property as he’d seen elsewhere.
However, he backed out of the decision-making on the name, and a council of members “came out with dozens and dozens” before coming back to The Crossing. The church bought the property in 2005, leased it back to Woodland Park for two years, then moved there full-time in 2007.
Between then and now, The Crossing name and three crosses were etched into a large stone in front of the church and on multiple glass windows in the building.
The crosses, according to Harris, represent the scriptural Calvary, where Jesus was crucified between two thieves. The Crossing name, he said, also represents the children of Israel crossing the Jordan River and into the promised land. For Christians today, he said, they can stand for crossing “the river of death” into heaven.
“The symbolism is all connected,” he said.
“We believe it is God’s intention to use these three crosses,” said Harris, “to make a bold statement locally, nationally and internationally of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love for all mankind.”
<em>Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to my posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.</em>