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Towering Cross Is Site of Future Biblical Replicas

July 08, 1998|DEBRA CANO

For almost a decade, a towering cross on the hilltop off the Riverside Freeway has been the Garden Church's landmark. At night, its glow catches the eye of thousands of freeway commuters.

Now the church at the foot of the cross is about to draw even more attention as construction begins Aug. 2 on a 30-year dream by its pastor: a miniature Holy Land and permanent sanctuary.

"It's very rewarding," the Rev. Bryan Crow, 64, said about the realization of his longtime vision. "When you do something that's dramatically different, there's always a question of your sanity. . . . But when you see it developing and see that it has validity, then there's a real sense that maybe you are doing what God wants you to do--and that you weren't crazy, but that you were following God's will."

Crow founded the Euclid Street Baptist Church in January 1962, and in 1988 he started a second congregation in an industrial area off La Palma Avenue. A year later, the church moved to its present home, a 67-acre parcel off east Santa Ana Canyon Road.

The donated land now features a simple outdoor worship area, a wedding chapel surrounded by oak groves and trailers for temporary offices.

Church trips to Jerusalem over the past 20 years sparked the idea to re-create biblical landmarks, said Crow, who also works as an Anaheim police chaplain.

The congregation already raised nearly $1.5 million for the $2-million project, which recently received approval from the Anaheim Planning Commission.

Highlights will include re-creations of the Garden Tomb, believed by some to be the burial place of Jesus Christ; the Garden of Gethsemane, an olive grove where Jesus was said to pray before his crucifixion; and the Hill of the Cross, the skull-shaped area where some believe Jesus was crucified. A stream representing the Jordan River will flow through the new sanctuary. The Sea of Galilee will be represented by a 50,000-gallon pond. The church's distinguishing cross will remain where it is.

Plans also include a day-care center, fellowship hall, administrative building and two athletic fields. Only about 14 acres will be developed. The new church will be completed by Easter, with the garden to follow by late 1999, officials said.

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