FOR RELEASE SATURDAY, MAY 11, 2013, AT 12:03 A.M. CDT. - In this May 6, 2013, workers were lift the top half of a giant 60-foot cross on the New Life Assembly of God church grounds onto its lower section, in Janesville, Wis. (AP Photo/The Janesville Gazette, Bill Olmsted)
JANESVILLE - In 2003, the leadership of New Life Assembly of God adopted a new vision statement: "To make the Janesville area Christ conscious."
Love it or hate it, the new, 60-foot cross on the church's grounds fits that vision.
Construction of the cross started April 29, and a crane last week lifted the top section of the cross into place, bringing it to its full height. Church Deacon Wayne Korsberg slid into a fall-restraint harness as volunteer workers from the church used a lift to fasten sections of white, corrugated steel to the cross frame.
The cross weighs an estimated 25,000 pounds, will be lit by three lights and sits in enough concrete that it should withstand winds up to 90 mph, The Janesville Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/11krGDV).
The community reaction to the cross has been surprising, Korsberg said.
"Everyone I've talked to has reacted positively so far. A lot of people from the neighborhood have come by, and some of them have actually donated to the project," he said.
Korsberg said he hopes people of all faiths, Christian and non-Christian, will flock to the giant metal cross.
Meanwhile, the church is ready for those who may be in support of the big cross_and those who may not.
"It certainly has sparked discussion," the Rev. Michael Jackson said. "We're pleased to be part of that discussion, whether people agree or disagree."
A 60-foot symbol of Christianity looming over Interstate 90/39, two shopping plazas and a residential neighborhood means people "aren't quite as able to ignore the cross of Jesus Christ," he said.
Jackson said programs or activities at his church are run through the filter of the church's vision.
"Before we say, 'Yes,' to something, we ask, 'Does this help make Janesville Christ conscious?'" Jackson said.
For example, the church's Zumba aerobics group dances to Christian music, and sessions conclude with prayer.
Jackson doesn't think the sight of the cross will make everybody a born-again Christian, but that's not the point. Nor is the point to get everybody to come to his church, he said. It's simply an unmistakable reminder.
Already, one person has stopped after seeing the cross. Another saw the cross while driving on Interstate 90/39 and called to comment.
Why not give the money to the poor?
"That argument has been around for a while," Jackson said.
In John 12, Mary pours expensive oil on the feet of Jesus. Judas demands to know why the oil wasn't sold and given to the poor, Jackson said. Jesus' response is: "You will always have the poor, but you will not always have me."
Jackson said church members already give tens of thousands of dollars to the poor in goods, services and money, and they will continue to do so.