Cross-shaped pier a fitting replacement for one destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Ocean Grove, N.J.
The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association raised $2 million to rebuild their pier after it was wrecked by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It is in the shape of a cross to honor God. | Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association
When Hurricane Sandy hit the New Jersey coastline on Oct. 29, 2012, a Christian vacation community founded by a group of Methodist ministers in 1869 was slammed and lost its beloved pier.
Now, less than a week after Easter this year, Ocean Grove, which has a peak population of about 8,000 in the summer, is celebrating the resurrection of the pier — but in a particularly Christian way. It’s in the shape of a cross.
“At first, we were going to build a straight pier, and then we thought about it more and there were just more angles to view, more places to go,” said Michael Badger, president of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist ministry that owns all the land and houses in the Ocean Grove neighborhood. The Monmouth County community, once known as “God’s Square Mile,” is home to the country’s largest collection of Victorian homes and continues to serve as a Methodist camp meeting.
In 2012, Superstorm Sandy — one of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history — destroyed 346,000 homes, took 38 lives, and caused $30 billion in damages, all in the state of New Jersey alone.
The newly built cross-shaped pier, which cost $2 million, will be consecrated to God on April 15, the day it opens to the public.
“In 2012, we started working and thinking about what’s the best pier we could do. We wanted to do the best for the Lord. We also wanted to make the best offerings possible for people to come and be at this family-friendly, Christian seaside resort,” Badger told CNA on Friday.
The public was prevented from accessing the end of the previous pier because it was owned by a private fishing club.
“It’s about the only publicly accessible pier in New Jersey where you can walk all the way to the end, where there’s no fence, there’s no private club or banquet hall on the end of it. Anybody, regardless of their faith, regardless of where they’re from, they can walk all the way out to the full extent and not be excluded,” he said.
Badger said that the overwhelming majority of feedback on the shape of the pier has been positive; however, some complained.
Ocean Grove resident Shane Martins said in a Neptune Township committee meeting in 2022 that the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association “is ushering in radical Christian nationalism and I think it is something you all need to be aware of.”
Another Ocean Grove resident, Douglas Grote, told patch.com in 2022 that the cross is “offensive” to the views of some.
“It’s sectarian,” he said. “And I’m a Presbyterian. Just this past weekend, I saw brown and black people on the beach in Ocean Grove; I saw people with Muslim scarves, someone in a Jewish scarf, and a transgender person in a halter top and bikini bottoms. If they are out here on the beach and there’s a cross right in the middle of their views, I would say that’s offensive as all get out. Wouldn’t you?”
Badger said that the positive to negative feedback has been “80 to 1.”
“One of the things that I think Americans are struggling with, and some more than others, is what is the role of Christianity, particularly Christianity [over other religions], in the public square,” he said.
Badger said that some people think faith belongs only in a physical church or in a home and that “the public world in America needs to be secularized.”
“We definitely see that the Constitution protects the free exercise of religion and that means whether it’s what you wear or how you hold your hairstyle or where you pray or what symbols you have, that we would still be able to be freely Christians and to use our land to the glory of God,” he said.
Badger said there may be an addition of a Bible quote on the back of one of the benches on the pier.
“I suspect that we will put the words across the back of the bench at the far end of the pier ‘In the beginning, God created’ from the book of Genesis, chapter one, verse one,” he said.
“It points to God as the Creator,” he added.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on Saturday at noon, where the pier will be dedicated to God, he said.
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“I think the Holy Spirit led us to this design and we’re just thrilled. If you look at it, it’s beautiful,” he said.
Joseph Bukuras is a journalist at the Catholic News Agency. Joe has prior experience working in state and federal government, in non-profits, and Catholic education. He has contributed to an array of publications and his reporting has been cited by leading news sources, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Catholic University of America. He is based out of the Boston area.
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