One of the largest — and most controversial — landmarks along Interstate 75 is back and bigger than ever.
After Solid Rock Church’s “King of Kings” sculpture, commonly referred to as “Touchdown Jesus” was struck by lightning in June 2010, the late Rev. Lawrence Bishop and his wife, Darlene, pledged the statue would rise again.
That prophecy came true under bright blue skies Wednesday
The statue — called “Lux Mundi” which is Latin for “Light of the World” — depicts Jesus with arms wide open, as though preparing to hug someone.
Crews started installing the torso of the statue at 11 a.m. As the final piece of the 52-foot statue was lowered into place, the sounds of honking cars on I-75 could be heard in the distance.
Lawrence Bishop, co-pastor and son of the late minister, called the sculptor “a beacon of hope” for I-75 travelers. He referred to the statue as the “heartbeat of the church.”
Solid Rock Church’s 3,000 members come from “all walks of life,” Bishop said, so it was important for the sculpture to illustrate the openness the church has for all people.
The statue’s sculptor, Tom Tsuchiya, of Cincinnati, said the extended arms represent a “simple message: Let’s all get along.”
The previous statue cost about $250,000 and was funded through a church member’s donation, Bishop said. The church used insurance money from the fire two years ago to purchase the new statue.
“It’s neat to see this day finally come,” said church administrator Ron Carter.
The statue represents “the hope of the world,” Carter said. “Right now, this world needs a positive message.”
Tom Rhoades, of Enon, and Linda Cornell, of Springfield, made the 45-minute trek to Monroe after they heard the statue was going to be erected Wednesday. They’ve driven multiple times up and down I-75 and said they have been anticipating this new statue.
Cornell called the statue “pretty neat” and said it looks more realistic than the previous one. Rhoades said the companies who worked to create the statue — Dayton-based Global Manufacturing Solutions and Englewood-based Display Dynamics — did a “fantastic job.”
To help prevent the same fate as its predecessor, the sculpture contains a lightning rod and is mostly made of a fire-resistant polymer composite.
The statue will be dedicated at 7 p.m. Sept. 30, followed by a church service and fireworks.
Staff Writer Michael D. Pitman contributed to this story.