A cross at the crossroads: 150-ft. structure to go up near Hwy. 84, I-55

Published 7:38 pm Monday, February 19, 2024

A new structure is beginning to take shape near the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 84 and Interstate 55 in Brookhaven. Starting with prayer and a groundbreaking Monday morning around 8 a.m., crews are now working daily to erect a 150-foot-tall cross on the property of Easthaven Baptist Church.

The project is all about a verse from the biblical book of First Corinthians, Easthaven Pastor Hal Kitchings said Monday.

“1 Corinthians 1:18 says, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,’” Kitchings said. “This is an opportunity to share hope, because that’s where our hope is found — in Christ.”

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The structure — which is set to be completed on or before Feb. 28 — will automatically bring encouragement and hope to Christians no matter what they’re going through, the pastor said, and will serve as a place for others to come for hope and encouragement.

Once erected, the cross will be illuminated by bright lights, and will eventually have a garden and benches around.

“It will be a place for the community to come, where there are lights and other safeguards, to come reflect, pray and meditate, and read the Bible,” Kitchings said. “All the cars passing by on the interstate or highway, people will be able to see they can stop at any time.”

Kitchings has been pastor at Easthaven for one year this week, and shared some of his vision for the church with his congregation in May 2023. Casting “a mental picture of what could be fueled by a vision of what should be,” the pastor said he listed several ministry possibilities, including that of a cross like he had seen elsewhere. Apparently God was already working in people’s spirits about something similar, he said, because people immediately bought into the idea and committed to help fund it. The cross and the upcoming garden area will be completely funded by donations, including future maintenance.

The 50-yard-tall white metal cross is being built by Mike Rozier Construction out of Hattiesburg, a company that has built several of these structures. Though similar crosses exist in other parts of Mississippi, this will be the first in the southern part of the state, and possibly the tallest to-date. A 120-foot-tall cross was erected in 2021 in the Delta on the campus of North Greenwood Baptist Church. NGBC’s pastor Jim Phillips will be in Brookhaven for the Easthaven dedication.

Negative criticisms have already come to the pastor and church — asking questions such as, why spend this money and effort on a cross when there are people with other needs?

Kitchings says his response points to Acts 1:8, Jesus’ command to be His witnesses at home first, then other parts of the world.

“We’ve always made a great commotion out of the Great Commission,” he said, referring to Jesus’ charge in the Gospel of Matthew to go into all the world making disciples and baptizing. “Missionary C.T. Studd said, ‘The light that shines farthest shines brightest near home.’ This is not either/or — it’s both/and.”

The church is determined not to neglect other ministries for the sake of building the cross, but is adding the ministry of the cross to its other efforts.

The cross will be fully erected in February, but will be dedicated in a special 11 a.m. service on Good Friday, March 29. Kitchings is excited about the anticipated results of this physical, very visible witness for the gospel of Jesus.

“I’m hopeful. I pray it will reach people we’ll never know this side of heaven. But God knows, and that’s what counts.”