A New Jersey beach town is making a grand gesture to start this summer in good faith.
Ocean Grove, New Jersey — known for its Christian roots and values — has rebuilt its massive oceanfront pier in the shape of a cross.
The boardwalk was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 — and its new design is now set to be revealed at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, April 15.
Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association president Michael Badger said in an interview with Fox News Digital that the symbolic design was not intentional, but “organic.”
Badger, who has a background in engineering, said he and his team aimed to build the “best pier” possible.
New cross-shaped pier in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. The original pier was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. (Fox News Photo/Joshua Comins)
“The more we thought about it [and] prayed about it, [the more] the inspiration came for the present design,” he said.
“We’re always going to be welcoming and seeking for people to be engaged by the gospel – and that’s what we have to offer.”
The thought behind the design was to add “more ends” to the pier, which resulted in the shape of a cross, Badger said.
“It’s functional,” he continued. “But it became obvious to us that it is in the shape of a cross — and how fitting it is for our Christian mission.”
He added, “So this is just a culminating of a design process that sought to create an optimal pier — and we do see the blessing of God’s hand in this.”
Easter morning sunrise over the new cross-shaped pier in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, as seen on April 9, 2023. (Fox News Photo/Joshua Comins)
Construction on the pier began in Sept. 2022. It stretches nearly 500 feet long and 24 feet wide across the extended arms.
The $2 million project was 100% donor-funded, according to Badger.
The stormproof pier will be completely open to the public for visitors to fish, relax and enjoy nature.
Cross-shaped pier in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. “People are going to love it,” said Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association president Michael Badger. (Fox News Photo/Joshua Comins)
“It is fabulous,” Badger said. “People are going to love it.”
The build did not come without scrutiny, Badger said. Some people were quick to criticize the pier’s Christian symbolism.
The cross should still be a “part of the American fabric,” as Americans are free to exercise religion “even in public spaces.”
“There are some people who feel that, in this day and age, Christians should take the crosses and move them inside their buildings and close the doors,” he said.
“And that’s not a sentiment that we agree [with].”
“Christianity is a global faith … We’re always going to be welcoming and seeking for people to be engaged by the gospel — and that’s what we have to offer.”
A statue of Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association founder Ellwood H. Stokes, in front of the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. (Joshua Comins/Fox News Digital)
The cross should still be a “part of the American fabric,” as Americans are free to exercise religion “even in public spaces,” Badger also said.
“We can’t hide our faith,” he continued. “It’s something we live out day to day, and I would be concerned if there ever came a day when that wasn’t allowed.”
Badger continued, “Anyone is allowed out on the pier, and we would celebrate them going out.”
Despite some backlash, most of the feedback about the pier has been positive, he said; most Ocean Grovers are just happy to have a boardwalk back on the beach.
View of a cross on the Ocean Grove Beach in New Jersey. (Fox News Photo/Joshua Comins)
“People are celebrating being whole again and better than we’ve ever been,” he said. “This is the best pier that Ocean Grove’s ever had.”
Badger added that there’s been a lot of “optimism” about the pier and its inclusive nature — which allows anyone to walk out onto the water.
“I’m hoping that people find peace there. I’m hoping they find joy,” he said. “I’m hoping they’re able to communicate with others and can feel a part of the community.”
“This isn’t political; this is spiritual. And for Ocean Grove, it’s historical.”
Badger volunteers in his role as OGCMA president.
He is responsible for managing Ocean Grove’s beach, boardwalk, historic buildings and religious and secular programming.
An aerial view of the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove at Bridgefest. (Courtesy of Bridgefest/Stan Berger)
The association owns all the land in the 153-year-old beach town, which was founded after the Civil War.
“It was a time when America had been divided,” Badger said. “They were broken physically, emotionally. Family members had fought against family members. Churches were splitting.”
People sought out Ocean Grove as a place for “healing and restoration,” he noted.
It’s a place, he said, “for people to go beside nature and to be in communion with God and to heal.”
Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association Headquarters are shown in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. (Fox News Photo/Joshua Comins)
Ocean Grove continues to maintain that same mission by creating a location for “holy leisure,” Badger added.
“We see that as what God’s mission for us to do is to create opportunities for spiritual birth growth and renewal, and that’s done through educational, recreational worship and similar means,” he said.
Colts Neck Community Church Pastor Chris Durkin expressed his support for Ocean Grove’s mission in an interview with Fox News Digital, calling it a community that is “very near to our hearts.”
While Ocean Grove has been nicknamed “God’s square mile,” Durkin said the new pier is a “wonderful addition to the Jersey shore.”
He said, “It represents not only Ocean Grove’s history – it represents so much of a ministry that happens there. More than just wood, this will point to the faith that’s helped shape this town for decades and decades.”
Sunrise during a recent morning on Ocean Grove Beach, New Jersey. (Fox News Photo/Joshua Comins)
The pastor said he believes it’s important to continue representing the “viewpoints of Christians” as a nation that has “not shied away from the cross.”
“The cross is the most celebrated symbol across the world,” he said. “So putting a cross along the Jersey Shore reminds us of the hope that Jesus Christ gives to all who believe.”
He added, “This isn’t political; this is spiritual. And for Ocean Grove, it’s historical.”
Fox News Digital’s Joshua Comins contributed to this report.