Southminster Presbyterian Church in Centerville started a program called the Cultural Cross Exchange in 2001, and has since collected over a dozen crosses. They are displayed on either side of a Missions Wall that holds images of recent mission trips.
Jack Reynolds, a church member who passed away many years ago, was instrumental in helping to get the program started.
“Through the years, he made various furniture and things here for the church, like the baptismal font, and a cradle for the Christmas pageant,” said lifelong Southminster member Janet Hall. “He started making a series of crosses for the exchange program.”
Reynolds carved the Southminster crosses as a simplified version of the official Presbyterian seal, leaving out the burning bushes, the Bible and the dove. But he left intact the three sections representing the Trinity. His wooden cross is displayed on the wall with a plaque that reads:
“Members and friends of Southminster have an opportunity to become globally minded, and make connections with other Christians in the world when they travel for work or pleasure. A Southminster cross is available to any traveler who wants to make contact with a missionary or congregation where they will be visiting.
All members and friends are encouraged to take a cross with them, in hopes of exchanging it with a fellow Christian. A picture of the person, congregation, or church that has the Southminster cross, or a cross or other symbol of Christian faith that is made in that area of the world will be a welcomed addition to this collection.”
The program was sponsored by the Southminster Mission Council. The program’s first year was a big one for the church. According to Hall, Marsha Haines brought a simple wooden cross back from Haiti in April of 2001 where she had gone on a mission trip
Lindsey Duncan, a Southminster member who was a teenager at that time, brought back a cross from Geneva, Switzerland. The small cross is painted with various images like a trinity candle, a dove and a Bible. The label by the cross indicates that was also brought back in 2001.
A beautifully carved silver cross inlaid with ceramic designs was brought back from Monterrey, Mexico, by Sonya, Dan, Rebecca and Greg Brooks in 2001.
Another sculpture, a somber wooden cross from Alamos, Mexico, was created as a crucifix. A figure of Jesus, made out of twisted metal and bound by straps, hangs on that cross. Members Maggie and Bob Jones’ friend, Susan Sanders, gave that gift to the church in 2001.
Janet Hall, along with her husband Todd, and children Nathan, Audrey and Ingrid, had the opportunity to bring a cross back from Germany in 2002. But there was a tiny little glitch in the process. They were visiting Janet’s brother who was on assignment at the Ramstein Air Base.
“We took a cross over, and we told my brother and his wife we wanted to exchange it at the nondenominational church on the army base in Landstuhl,” said Hall, a Centerville resident. “So that Sunday, our family presented it to the minister. But the pastor had forgotten to have a cross for us at the exchange ceremony, so me and my sister-in-law had to buy one at a flea market near where my brother lived.”
The simple wooden cross they brought home says, “Gott beschutze dieses hous,” which means, “God bless this house.” Hall’s father-in-law, John Hall, is a founding and still active member of Southminster.
Many of the crosses hung on the mission wall are unmarked and shrouded in mystery. A large, ornate wooden cross on a round base has “Recuerdo Patronato” written on the bottom. It was brought back in 2003. Also not marked: a small wooden cross that spells “Jesus,” a tiny bronze cross is inlaid with Biblical images and a plain wooden cross marked “Iglesia.”
Church member Annie Gillies gifted a polished wooden cross from her native Glasgow, Scotland, in 2008. The last cross not marked is domestic, but has an interesting story. It is an original barbed-wire cross handcrafted in San Antonio, Texas. The label reads:
“This cross has been individually handcrafted from barbed wire that once provided barriers. Although this wire was forgotten, neglected, lost and thought to be unusable, it is now a symbol of God’s love.”