Giant steel cross to be built on Alabama 67, plans to finish by Easter
By Wes Tomlinson
For the Enquirer
If Johnny Maxwell’s vision becomes reality, motorists traveling on Interstate 65 in Morgan County will soon be greeted by a 120-foot-tall steel cross atop Priceville Mountain.
With the help of several area churches Maxwell, pastor of Nature’s Trail Church in Priceville, hopes to have the cross built by Easter Sunday.
Maxwell said he first conceived the idea of the cross 17 years ago around the time his church was being built.
“One day, I had this vision of a giant cross here in the mountains off the highway,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell described his vision to friend Tommy Livingston and Livingston donated 2 acres he owned beside Libby’s Catfish & Diner on Alabama 67 as a site for the cross. Maxwell said it took several years to start planning and gathering funds for the cross.
“Even though we could have financially pulled it off as a church, the timing just didn’t seem right,” Maxwell said. “About a year ago, me and Tommy were talking about it and realized now was the time.”
The cross itself will cost about $300,000, and an additional $300,000 will be needed for prayer stations that would surround the cross.
So far, Maxwell and the five-member board he and Livingston formed in March for the project have raised $15,000 from fellow church members and individuals residing within the region.
“We had one guy from Chattanooga donate $5,000 and another person from Knoxville donate $2,500,” Maxwell said.
Livingston said the board and the 12 area churches helping with the project are a diverse group representing a variety of denominations.
“We have people from several different Christian denominations involved, even Catholics,” Livingston said.
Maxwell said the cross will be much like the cross located by Gardendale First Baptist Church off I-65 in Jefferson County. He said Mike Rozier of Rozier Construction in Greenwood, Mississippi, would be responsible for construction of the Priceville cross and has built similar giant crosses in the Southeast.
The cross would be equipped with LED lighting, and Maxwell said it would be visible from as far away as Limestone County and downtown Decatur. However, he said, the project is about more than just building relics.
“We’re building 12 prayer stations in a circular pattern around the cross where people can go to according to their need,” Maxwell said.
The prayer stations will be kiosks with touch-screen technology where individuals can request help from licensed counselors who will communicate virtually through a screen.
“Whether someone is having suicidal thoughts, going through a pregnancy or even experiencing infidelity, they’ll have someone to talk to,” Maxwell said.
Eddie Turrentine, part of the five-member board, said he wants the cross to serve as a “focal point” when motorists pass by it, and hopes it will resonate as a symbol of peace.
“I know what the impact can be and with the prayer stations, we can reach people more,” Turrentine said. “Prayer is good and we need to pray a lot, but sometimes we need to put some feet with those prayers. This is the time where we’re doing that and taking action.”
Turrentine said the counselors managing the prayer stations will mainly be individuals from the 12 area churches located in Morgan County and Church of the Highlands in Madison.
“They must have specific credentials to address whatever problem the person may be facing,” Turrentine said. “They don’t necessarily have to be from one of the 12 churches but they have to be a licensed professional; not just anyone can offer advice.”
When asked how he was going to raise at least $300,000 for the cross by April, Maxwell just smiled and said, “With God, there’s always a way.”
“If God ordered it, God will pay for it,” Turrentine said. “We believe that 100%.”
According to Maxwell, Rozier said they must order the parts for the cross by Dec. 31 if they want to have it completed by Easter.
“We won’t have the prayer stations completed by then, only the cross,” Turrentine said.