A New Jersey shore town rebuilt a pier in the shape of a cross to fulfill its “Christian mission” after much prayer.
The privately-owned boardwalk in Ocean Grove, nicknamed “God’s Square Mile,” was destroyed in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy and will open to the public Saturday, ahead of the Methodist group’s Memorial Day projection.
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“The more we thought about it, prayed about it, the inspiration came for the present design,” Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association president Michael Badger told Fox News. “It’s functional, but it became obvious to us that it is in the shape of a cross — and how fitting it is for our Christian mission.”
The design has been labeled controversial by the local media after residents complained about a religious symbol in the public, but the group said they make “no apologies” about the donor-funded $2 million, 500-foot-long pier that they see as a “blessing of God’s hand.”
Badger pushed back against the angry atheist critics.
“There are some people who feel that, in this day and age, Christians should take the crosses and move them inside their buildings and close the doors, and that’s not a sentiment that we agree [with],” he said.
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“Christianity is a global faith … We’re always going to be welcoming and seeking for people to be engaged by the gospel — and that’s what we have to offer,” Badger explained. “We can’t hide our faith. It’s something we live out day to day, and I would be concerned if there ever came a day that wasn’t allowed.”
According to the United Methodist Church, several famous hymns were written in the beach town:
The backstory is that after the Civil War, there was still unrest in the U.S., and Methodist leader William Osborn had a dream of establishing a permanent camp meeting, a place where visitors focused on spiritual growth and holiness. Organizers scouted seaside locations and in 1869, chose Ocean Grove, New Jersey, an idyllic setting that came to be called “God’s Square Mile.” At its peak, 660 tents stood on the grounds. That number is closer to 118 now, but the meeting’s mission remains robust: to revive people so they go back to their home churches with new excitement for the Lord.
Evangelist Franklin Graham celebrated the pier on social media.
“What a great landmark for their town,” the son of Rev. Billy Graham said. “They said they wanted to build the best pier possible, and that’s what they did.
Colts Neck Community Church Pastor Chris Durkin told the outlet, “the cross is the most celebrated symbol across the world, so putting a cross along the Jersey Shore reminds us of the hope that Jesus Christ gives to all who believe.”
The local pastor added, “This isn’t political; this is spiritual. And for Ocean Grove, it’s historical.”
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Caleb Parke is the SMG managing editor. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and connect with him at calebparke.com.