It was standing room only inside the Solid Rock Church Sunday evening as the congregation and visitors gathered to formally dedicate “Lux Mundi,” the 51-foot statue of Jesus placed between the church and I-75.
“This has been a long time coming,” said church administrator Ron Carter. “It’s finally nice to be at this point.”
“Lux Mundi” had been installed in pieces over the last few weeks, a replacement for the previous statue in the spot, “King of Kings,” which was widely known as “Touchdown Jesus” for the pose with arms upraised. “King of Kings” burned after being struck by lightning in June 2010.
Sculptor Tom Tsuchiya received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“The inspiration of Jesus is larger than life,” he said. “His message is larger than life, so how fitting it is to honor him with a sculpture that is larger than life.”
Tsuchiya said that he had two main sources of inspiration: The New Testament and the people of the Solid Rock Church.
From the New Testament, he studied the original Greek texts from the Gospels of John and Matthew, and the passage from Corinthians I, Chapter 13, and chose the Latin for “Light of the World” as the title “because it sounded cool.”
“We chose the name because everyone who sees the statue will be reminded of the bright beacon of Jesus,” he said. “When I visited Solid Rock for the first time, I saw this message put into practice.”
Tsuchiya said he first created a five-foot clay model so that he could work on the right expression and pose, showing Jesus with his arms outstretched and stepping forward slightly.
“I wanted a subtle smile that conveyed authority and benevolence,” he said. “That gave it a warm, calm quality.”
Carter said the statue will also include a water feature at its base that will be installed in the spring.
The dedication was scheduled to take place on the first anniversary of the death of church founder Lawrence Bishop.
“The last time I had a meeting with him on the statue, he just loved the design,” Carter said, “and was appreciative of all the work that went into the statue.”
A group of six men, who identified themselves only as “the Watchmen,” held a protest outside the driveway entrance to Solid Rock Church, shouting “Remember the second commandment” over a bullhorn and calling those entering “idolaters.”
Their presence didn’t go unnoticed in the ceremony.
“They called me ‘Jezebel,’” said Pastor Darlene Bishop. “If they knew me, they’d love me.”
Lawrence Bishop II shrugged them off as “demons trembling,” a reference to a passage in the Book of James.
“No one’s protesting Trader’s World for giraffe worship,” he joked, referring to the animal sculptures around the nearby flea market.
“But when it’s Jesus, they come with funny names for it,” he said. “If he were just standing there, they’d call it ‘the Just Standing There Jesus.’”