Presbyterian Crosses

The Presbyterian Crosses


In 1913 George Bennard wrote “The Old Rugged Cross”. This hymn is very popular and well known. 

The symbol of the Cross, which was first adopted by early Christians in the second century followig the death of Christ, is a reminder to us that Christ was given up as an offering for our salvation. He died so that we may live. Thus, as the hymn says, we will love and cherish that old cross.

The First Presbyterian Church of Gothenburg cherishes three old crosses. The first, located on the hill overlooking Lake Helen was made by Larry Ostergard  from two old posts. It greets the sun each morning from atop the hill overlooking the Lake and Gothenburg.  During spring the pasture surrounding the cross is filled with cows and newly born calves.  One early Easter morning we witnessed the birth of one of those calves right below that cross.  This proved to be a reminder to us of the life that is found in God.

On Easter morning, you are invited to gather at the Cross on the Hill to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the fulfillment of God’s promise.  You do not have to be a Presbyterian to join us in this celebration so bring a friend.  The Service will begin 30 minutes before sunrise and end with the rising of the sun.


A second cherished Cross is hung upon the wall of the Sanctuary.   During Lent  A long black cloth is hung from the cross arms of the Cross signifying the suffering and death upon the cross that Christ endured for us.  Early on Easter morning Dennis Clark replaces that black cloth with one of white silk to celebrate that upon the third day Christ arose and with his resurrection came our salvation.

The wood that makes up this cross came from the old South Barn that once stood on the farm belonging to Mary Lou Clark’s family.  Dennis took the wood from that old barn and tied it together using old leather reins he found in a barn located on Roger and Francis Clark’s farm. 

It is important as time moves forward from  Easter and Pentecost, to look back at the season and of the message that is there for us.  As we do so, we realize that on the hill that day, when Jesus was crucified, there were three crosses.

Scripture tells us that two other men were crucified along with Jesus.  Two criminals.  Two thieves.  Two sinful men.  How each reacted when placed upon the cross next to Jesus is a lesson to all of us, for we too are all guilty of sin:

(Luke 23: 39 – 43)

(39) “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

(40) But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?   

(41) We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

( 42) Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

(43) Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The First Presbyterian Church of Gothenburg also has three crosses.  The third Cross, like the other two, is a product of love and dedication, however, it provides its message of Christ’s love not just during the Easter Season, but each and every day of the year.   The cross I’m speaking of is the one that graces the front of our Church.

In 1962 when the Christian Education Building was completed a cross was constructed and hung on the outside wall of the Church.  With time the cross began to show the wear and tear from the weather and sunlight.

As we entered the new century, members of the Church felt it was time to update the cross.  They approached Gene Volkman about making a new cross.  Gene was an excellent wood-worker and they felt he could build a cross every bit as beautiful as any they could buy.  They were not mistaken, nor disappointed.

Gene rummaged around in his shop and found some pieces of raw cedar.  He cut seven of the pieces into thin strips and hand sculptured them to match the metal frame of the old cross.  The new cross is a visually striking centerpiece on the wall that lies to the north of our east doors and a lasting legacy to Gene as this was his final woodworking project. 

As we move though ordinary time, that time in the life of the Church between Pentecost and the Advent Season, and as we come to Services each week and look upon the beautiful cross that Gene made for us, let us remember the lesson of that third cross.  We can reject Jesus, as the one thief did, or regardless of our sins we too can ask…“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Our deepest thanks to the Ostergard, Clark and Volkman families for providing for us with not one, not two, but three Old Rugged Crosses that we as a Church can love and cherish.