A megachurch in southwest Ohio dedicated a new statue of Jesus on Sunday that replaces the iconic sculpture known as "Touchdown Jesus" that burned down after being struck by lightning in 2010.
The Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, celebrated the construction of the new "Lux Mundi" (The Light of the World) statue off Interstate 75 in a special service on Sunday evening.
"It's a big, big event for us.... it's been over 2 years, it's been a long process. But, we're very pleased with the final product. Peoples' reaction has been very positive for us. So it's a great day," wpco.com quoted church administrator Ron Carter as saying.
The new statue is designed by Japanese-American sculptor Tom Tsuchiya, who is an independent sculptor. "Ultimately, I hope Lux Mundi will be a constant reminder for all of us to get along with each other," Tsuchiya was quoted as saying.
The Lux Mundi statue depicts a full body Jesus with arms outstretched walking on the lake in front of Solid Rock's sanctuary. It has its arms reaching forward, instead of towards the sky like its predecessor.
In 2010, a storm ripped through the area and a bolt of lightning struck the previous statue built in 2004. All that remained of "Touchdown Jesus" was a heavily damaged iron frame.
"When it got burnt down, people looked at it in different ways," church member Nick Isbel was quoted as saying. "Some people left the church, they thought it was a bad sign. That this was a bad place to be. Other people saw it as a good sign. It's the most that Jesus has been in the news for a while, so. It being rebuilt just puts it on people's minds and in people's hearts."
"The materials used for the [new] statue are all fire rated and we have installed a lightning suppression system as an integral part of the statue," Carter said last month. "If the statue is struck by lightning, I'm told there will be damage at the point of the strike, but the statue should not burn."
At Sunday's service, the church also honored Pastor Lawrence Bishop, who spearheaded construction of the original Jesus statue and who died last year.
Church members were excited about the new statue. "We're happy to see the statue going up tonight. All of this is just allowing us to remind people of Jesus and that's all it is," said Al Slaughter from Fairfield.
However, there was a church protest before the dedication service. About half a dozen of protesters carrying a bullhorn and signs demonstrated in front of the church gate, saying they are Christians who are against idol worship.
Solid Rock Church has about 4,000 members and two campuses for worship. It is led by Pastor Darlene Bishop.