WEIRTON - A saturation of white crosses on Easter Sunday in the yards of Weirton homes and businesses would make members of the Weirton Ministerial Association pleased pastors.
But better yet, its leaders say, is if the campaign is part of a national witness to the risen Christ, if it goes "viral."
Association members are on track to broaden the scope of last year's campaign, a 2011 effort that resulted in about 3,800 "Jesus Is Risen" crosses displayed in yards on Easter Sunday predominantly in Weirton but also in other communities on both sides of the Ohio River.
SIGN?OF?THE?SEASON — Members of the Weirton Ministerial Association who are part of a campaign for area residents to purchase “Jesus Is Risen” crosses in their yards or businesses this Easter are, front, from left, the Rev. Jim Rhodes, Mercy Baptist; association treasurer the Rev. Eddie McDaniel, St. Peter’s AME Church; the Rev. James Foglio, association president and pastor of Weirton Covenant Church; the Rev. Darrell Maze, Kings Creek Union Chapel; the Rev. Tom Derby, Colliers Way Church of Christ; and the Rev. Craig Greathouse, Family of God Christian Church; and back, the Rev. J.D. Wall, Tri-State Church of God; the Rev. Chuck Jerman, Tri Parish United Methodist Church; the Rev. Tony Foglio, retired from Sunrise Community Church, San Diego, Calif.; the Rev. Gary Lilly, Restoration Church, state Route 213, Steubenville; and Mike Smith, association secretary and an elder at Weirton Covenant Church.
-- Janice R. Kiaski
The crosses were 2-foot wooden ones produced, stenciled and painted by volunteers and distributed for a donation that benefited a local charity.
This year's campaign is the same, yet different, according to the Rev. James Foglio, pastor of Weirton Covenant Church and president of the association.
It's the same in that the crosses are blank on one side, the message "Jesus Is Risen" on the other. The procedure for displaying them is the same, too, as participants are instructed to place the crosses in their yards on Good Friday with the blank side showing. On Easter Sunday, they are to turn the cross to proclaim the message.
This year, however, the crosses have been professionally made, are plastic and are more durable.
And this year, too, a suggested donation of $5 for one cross will benefit an international mission called Causelife, "a movement of people dedicated to providing the most essential need to human life - water," according to promotional literature. "By raising awareness and implementing solutions, Causelife provides clean, safe water that changes lives and transforms communities."
"One of the biggest causes of death and disease in the world today is a lack of clean and healthy water," said Foglio, who noted the association has been a past supporter of the mission.
"It's a great ministry and something everyone can get behind," Foglio said.
There have been 10,000 crosses ordered, according to Foglio. They are available to anyone interested by contacting Mike Smith, an elder at Weirton Covenant Church and secretary of the association. He can be reached by phone by calling (304) 748-4422 or by mail at 3948 Claremont Place, Weirton, WV, 26062.
Smith explained the crosses will be available up until Good Friday, April 6, in order to visibly participate this year but will continue to be available for ordering after that as well.
"Anything above and beyond the cost of the crosses is going to go to the Causelife project," Foglio said. Checks can be mailed to Smith and made payable to Easter crosses or the Weirton Ministerial Association with Easter crosses in the memo line.
Another change from last year is the campaign promotion.
On Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., for example, ministerial association representatives and volunteers are going door-to-door throughout Weirton.
"We're doing a communitywide distribution with the ministerial association as various pastors have taken different wards or sections of town," Smith said. "We are coordinating groups of people to do door-to-door distributions. I am the coordinator for heading that up and making sure the crosses are there," Smith said.
Foglio shared what Jim Pratt of Kings Creek Union Chapel experienced in helping with the initial day of the door-to-door distribution, "an effort to put Easter crosses in people's yards, Jesus on their minds and develop clean water wells for people of third world regions."
"Saturday, a group of volunteers began their first day of canvassing neighborhoods, crosses in hand, soliciting modest donations for this humanitarian effort in return for a cross with the words 'Jesus Is Risen.'
"A wonderful thing happened. At many homes, the person having their day interrupted by some unknown neighbor received the offer with open hearts and hands, even wishing God's blessing on our efforts as we departed. I'm anything but a salesman, but one could only dream of such a positive response.
"By the end of the day, it became clear to me that the very presence of the cross in our hands preceded any words that we spoke, making our humble efforts fruitful. Thank you, fellow believers, for your support. Display your cross proudly this year. Take time to personally worship Jesus this Easter for his sacrifice 2,000 years ago that continues to bring people together in his spirit. Celebrate the power of his cross. It is alive and well!"
Another promotional approach is a brief video made by Josh Foglio, Pastor Foglio's grandson, that explains the project. It can be made available to interested churches or organizations by calling Smith.
"We don't want it to be just a little nice thing like it was last year," Foglio said. "Last year you'd go here and there (and see one), and it was nice, but we want it to be 'wow!'" he said of the hoped-for participation and impact.
"We are hoping that this campaign goes viral and spreads across the nation, bringing revival and restoring our nation to the blessings and protection of God almighty," Foglio said.
The initial idea for the cross campaign in 2011 originated with Foglio, who broached the subject with his pastoral colleagues as a ministerial association meeting in January 2011. He was led to do so, he had explained, by two occurrences. One was a visit with his wife, Dorothy "Pinky," to the gravesite of their 39-year-old daughter Lea who died of cancer, where they had placed a cross. The other was a photo his brother Tony Foglio of Toronto had shown him from a trip to Normandy, in particular all the crosses at the American Cemetery.
"We thought it'd be nice to put crosses everywhere to celebrate the risen Jesus," Foglio said of the idea backed with fervency by the association from the get-go.
"This project is important to me because I believe it is time for Christians and the church to unite and lift our voice and declare our value and morals, which are anchored in the simple truth that 'Jesus is Risen," Smith had said during the initial year of the cross campaign.
This year's effort will culminate with a communitywide sunrise service on Easter Sunday, April 8, at the Serbian American Cultural Center. "Everyone is welcome to come and join us at the center," Foglio said. Weather permitting, the service will be held outside. If not, it will be moved indoors. Afterwards, there will be a continental breakfast available, "and then everyone can go to their own church (for their Easter service,)" Smith added.
The message of the cross is everything, according to Foglio.
"It's the message of the resurrection. Without the resurrection, Christianity is just some religion but the resurrection makes it special. What's nice is the back of the cross makes a statement for you, that Jesus died on the cross for you, but he rose, too," Foglio said.
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)