The “Old Rugged Cross” with a new slant

Just in time for Holy Week for one West Michigan church


A JOB WELL DONE—with beaming faces (l–r) Cornerstone Head Lay Leader Ken Watkins, sculptor Steve Anderson, and Kent Companies COO and church member Dave Turner stand before the completed Cornerstone Cross installation.

In 2009 the church family of Cornerstone United Methodist Church of Caledonia moved into their beautiful new church home at the intersection of 84th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue. From humble beginnings in 1990, in the basement of Pastor Brad Kalajainen and wife Colleen’s home, Cornerstone has grown to a church family of some 1,100 members with weekly Saturday evening and Sunday morning services now approaching 2,000 attendees.

The new church facility was created as an engaging and welcoming facility that would become a destination for the community. Toward that end they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Designed and constructed in a contemporary/industrial style, the Cornerstone facility was meant to be nontraditional and flexible, demonstrating stewardship through the wise use of resources and respect for the environment.

Set back from the busy intersection, the building lacked the look of a traditional church, prompting the church’s administrative council to look for a visible symbol to identify the building’s purpose to the countless hundreds of daily passersby.

A decision was made to erect a large, prominent cross in the center of the circular driveway in the front of the church. Not just any cross, mind you, but a cross to be designed to mirror the image of Cornerstone’s logo—that being a slightly tilted cross “meant to convey the church’s personal style of being more casual and less rigid,” said church member Jay Brooks, the logo’s designer.

Swinging in the high wind, the Cornerstone Cross is gingerly lowered into position over a previously erected and anchored 14-foot steel girder.

Enter Rockford metal sculptor Steve Anderson of Anderson’s Metal Sculpture, who was brought to the church’s attention by Rockford resident and Cornerstone member Tracy Bowers, Cornerstone’s director of outreach and coordinator for the cross project.

Squire readers will recognize Anderson as the creator of, among other notable sculptures, “Water Dance”—the depiction of three leaping fish that grace the face of Rockford’s Rogue River Dam. Locally, other prominent Anderson’s sculptures are the “Tom Brown Fire Hawk” located at the front entrance of the Cedar Springs High School football stadium and “The Rockford Fighting Ram” at the front entrance of North Rockford Middle School.

Quickly recognizing Anderson’s genius, the church commissioned the sculptor to design and create a gleaming and textured-surface, stainless steel cross. Church leaders embraced Anderson’s original design concept and all of his alternative adjustments while bringing the cross to fruition during two months this past winter.

So this past Friday, April 15, on what was an incredibly windy day, the Anderson’s created Cornerstone Cross was delivered and anchored in place in an installation that Dave Turner, church member and chief operating officer of Kent Companies, said “couldn’t have gone smoother, in spite of the difficult weather conditions.”

Turner was on hand to personally supervise the installation. He had arranged to have one of his company’s highly specialized hydraulic boom trucks on hand to hoist the 20-foot-tall, hollow core, 1,600-pound, stainless steel cross up and down onto a previously erected 14-foot steel girder that was anchored to an earlier poured 7-foot-deep by 3-foot-diameter steel reinforced cement foundation.

Cornerstone Head Lay Leader Ken Watkins (left) and sculptor Steve Anderson (right) begin to place anchor bolts in the base of the Cornerstone Cross.

The cross was breathtaking! Using sanding discs, Anderson’s had textured the surface of the cross so that reflected light radiated outward from its very center. Just as designed and planned, it tilted some 85 degrees from horizontal.

Highlighting and circling the cross were three 48-foot-long ribbons of stainless steel that swirled toward the sky. Each of the three ribbons was engraved with a biblical verse that “speaks first of all to God’s Great Commandment, and secondly to where we need to be as a church family, and finally to God’s Great Commission as to what we need to do to accomplish our mission,” said Shelly Watkins, Cornerstone’s office and facility director. “The cross sculpture becomes a living representation of our logo.”

The proud and anxious Steve Anderson hovered over the entire installation that windy afternoon, lending his expertise and a hand whenever necessary. “I love what I do—designing and creating metal sculptures that will bring great pleasure and last for generations,” said Anderson. “I’m humbled and honored to have been chosen to create the Cornerstone Cross.”


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