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Local blacksmith leads church in cross building

April 11, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Blacksmith Eric Johnson heated pieces of iron to a reddish glow Saturday and then shaped them into spikes similar to those used by the Romans to hammer through the hands and feet of Jesus.

Others took turns chipping bark off cut locust trees and flattening and squaring out the sides.

Several hours later, their work would produce a large wooden cross.

Johnson, of Kearneysville, W.Va., said he hoped the activity, which took place outside of Church of Christ at Hagerstown, would give church members an idea of the pain Jesus endured during his crucifixion.

"I hope that they draw a closer commitment to Christ," Johnson said.

"Christ was willing to die an excruciating death in the worst form of punishment for the sins of mankind," Johnson said.

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About 40 members of Church of Christ at Hagerstown, on White Hall Road in the Beaver Creek area, worked on the cross, which they planned to carry and mount inside the church when finished.

Johnson said the cross would be heavy "to give you an idea of what kind of weight Christ would've borne when he walked through the streets with this thing."

Johnson said he gave the participants instructions on how to make the cross and then let them work on it on their own.

"The way that it turns out is the way the congregation wants it," Johnson said. "It's theirs when it's done."

Thomas Huff, minister of the church, said church members were using the same technology and tools that would have been used during the time of Jesus. They began their work at about 8:30 a.m.

Johnson said Jesus, a carpenter, would have been familiar with the axes and other tools the church members used.

Huff said the age of participants ranged from young children to people in their 80s.

The congregation took turns using a crosscut saw to cut slits in the longer part of the cross, which later were chiseled out to form a slot where the cross bar was to lay.

Huff said the cross was to be held together by wooden pegs.

While some took a break from the work, they offered words of encouragement to the others who took their place.

Many could be heard voicing pleasure in the way the congregation came together.

Huff said it was his idea to contact Johnson, who he had known from another church at which Huff was minister.

"God gave me this about eight years ago as a ministry," said Johnson, who tries to conduct the cross-building event at area churches several times a year.

"I do this in honor of Christ," Johnson said. "Not for me, but for Christ."

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