'Hug Me Jesus' statue dedicated

MONROE, OH (FOX19) – Solid Rock Church in Monroe dedicated the long-awaited 'Touchdown Jesus' replacement statue Sunday evening.

"It was a dream come true," pastor Darlene Bishop said of the dedication. "Because I know that it was my [late] husband's dream and his vision it makes it even more special."

The new statue, nicknamed 'Hug Me Jesus', is officially being called The Lux Mundi, or Light of the World, statue.

"The statue shows an embracing Jesus. A Jesus that is reaching out to people," said Solid Rock Church administrator Ron Carter.

"His arms are outreached to reach out to anybody," member Tom Simon said of the sculpture.

Even though Tom's wife Barbara just had surgery, they still made it out for the dedication.

"This means everything to us, this is our church," Barbara said.

The old 'Touchdown Jesus' statue, as it was called, burned to the ground in June 2010 after it was struck by lightning.

"I don't believe God took it down because he was displeased with it," said Carter. "I think sometimes we try to spiritualize too much and it was just a lightning strike."

To avoid a similar incident in the future, the new statue was designed with a lightning rod on the top of the head and the sculptor says he used 'relatively fire-resistant' construction materials.

A group of seven men who would not identify themselves by name stood just off the church property Sunday calling the statue and 'idol'.

"We're not idolizing this object," Tom Simon said. "No one is out here worshipping the object we're just here to honor Jesus."

Bishop says the project was entirely paid for with insurance money.

The dedication of the 51-foot statue was followed by a fireworks display.

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