After three years of planning, fundraising and problems finding a location, the Cross of Christ for Starkville was raised on Thursday morning.
“It’s very exciting, obviously,” said Bob Daniels, president for the citizen organization that coordinated the effort. “It’s been three years since we first started talking about it, and we’ve been looking forward to this day for a while. Some of us had said it’s hard to believe it’s here. We didn’t think it would ever get here.”
The 120-foot tall cross stands on property donated by the Massey family. It is located at the intersection of Highway 25 and Longview Road, a few miles south of Starkville.
It was originally planned to go inside the Starkville city limits, but the group ran into problems with zoning ordinances.
“We did have a site that was going to be donated, up in the northwest part of the city, but when we started making plans to build there, we ran into what most people consider a fairly restrictive planning and zoning ordinance,” Daniels said. “We tried, and started working our way through that. But after about nine months, our board determined that following the ordinance in the city would have cost us about $400,000 more and probably added at least nine months of time to our project because of going to meetings and getting approvals and permission and all of that.”
The group then began looking for land in the county outside the city limits.
The Cross of Christ of Starkville group had raised $310,000 as of Thursday for the cross project, more than its original fundraising goal of $250,000.
Daniels said the extra funds will further improve the project site.
“We are still collecting money because we’ve got work to do here still,” he said. “We’ve got the parking lot to finish and we’ve got lights to install.”
He said that there is a lighting package of eight lights that will illuminate the cross itself, but the organization has ordered lights that will shine into the air, intersecting at 200 feet above the cross. He said that the inspiration came from the Ground Zero Memorial in New York.
Despite the high temperatures, a crowd of about 100 people gathered to watch the raising on Thursday. Among those in attendance were District 4 Oktibbeha County Supervisor Bricklee Miller, Ward 7 Starkville Alderman Henry Vaughn and Justice Court Judge Larnzy Carpenter.
“I’m glad to be here and glad to see it,” Vaughn said. “I just thank God that we do have something to represent him. That’s the way I feel about it.”
Carpenter, a local pastor who is on the board for the organization, said the cross has a deeper meaning.
“When you think about the cross, it deals with suffering, and our lord and savior Jesus Christ,” he said. “He took our sins and our unrighteousness and gave us his righteousness.”
Ultimately, Daniels said it is meant to be a symbol that will last for years to come.
“This thing will stand here for 50 years, long after I’m gone,” he said. “It’s a reminder that the Lord God is real and he’s with us here at home.”
The cross makes at least 10 crosses that have been placed, mostly along highways and interstates, in Mississippi.
There are also crosses in Batesville, Booneville, Calhoun County, Eupora, Florence, Grenada, Prentiss County, Ripley, Taylorsville and Winona.
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