MONROE, Ohio - The Solid Rock Church off of I-75 in Monroe, Ohio, watched its "Touchdown Jesus" statue burn due to a lightning strike June of 2010.
On Wednesday, a new statue was erected 27 months after the incident. It took about four hours to finish assembling the new Jesus statue at the church. There were a handful of spectators present.
Tom Tsuchiya, a local sculpture artist, created the new statue. He is best known for the statues of Cincinnati Reds players at the Great American Ball Park. One of his proudest creations is the National Football League's Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award . The Solid Rock Church project is the largest (in scale) that he has done.
"The original model I made was one-tenth the scale, a little over 5 feet tall," said Tsuchiya.
The statue weighs in at more than 30,000 pounds, stands 50 feet tall, and is made from polymers and steel. It is designed to withstand 80 mph winds, has a lightning rod on top and is fire resistant.
The former statue was commonly known as "Touchdown Jesus," because its arms reached upward like a football referee's signaling a touchdown. This statue, however, is being referred to as the "Hug Me Jesus," because its arms stretch toward the interstate as if to welcome someone for an embrace.
"It's kind of like a reminder for people to get along with each other," said Tsuchiya.
Lawrence Bishop, a church co-pastor, said that it symbolized that everyone is welcome into their place of worship.
"We don't worship the statue," said Bishop. "It's just a beacon of light to all travelers telling them, like Jesus accepted everyone, even those on rock bottom: drug addicts, people who have lost all hope."
A couple from Springfield, Ohio, came to watch the event. Linda Cornwell and Tom Rhodes decided to come while having breakfast at a local restaurant, and heard about the event. They took the scenic route through Xenia and stayed for the entire event.
"I come by all the time and it's kind of a landmark," said Cornell. "We remember the 'Touchdown Jesus' and the scenario and the fire."
"It's interesting to watch the cranes lifting the thing and lowering it back down," said Rhodes.
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