Thursday, March 23, 2000

Orange barrels of the Lord

Tristate ministers blend Bible lessons with humor

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Rev. Gregg W. Anderson
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Amen is not the first word most Tristate drivers utter at the sight of orange traffic barrels.

        Holy thoughts are pretty far down the list, below visions of inching traffic, idiots who wait until the last minute to merge and a few, less-sacred words.

        But two friends — both suburban youth ministers — are working to give a face lift to the much-maligned orange barrels. The Rev. Terry Morgan at Covenant Community Church in Fairfield and the Rev. Gregg W. Anderson at the First Baptist Church in Greenhills preach from an orange barrel pulpit. They added lecterns to the top to hold Bibles and other papers.

        Maybe the next time drivers from their churches “are on the highway with 100-degree temperatures, and the air conditioner's broke, and they see some of the orange barrels, it's going to be a reminder,” says the Rev. Anderson, 46, of Highland Heights.

        “We're all under construction. No matter if we're young Christians or old Christians, we have not arrived. We're still on a journey with Jesus, and we have not arrived until we get to heaven.”

        Randy Murray figures this is the first time parishioners at First Baptist have seen a construction barrel in a positive light.

        “I think it's awesome,” said Mrs. Murray, who has attended the church since 1973. Her daughters, now in their 20s, were youth group members.

        “I think it works great with high school kids. Anything goofy, crazy or out-of-the-ordinary, they love.”

        The seemingly perpetual construction season sparked the idea.

        “When I first moved to Cincinnati in 1992, I was amazed at the amount of orange barrels and cones just left in the middle of the interstate,” the Rev. Morgan says. He picked up a barrel that had been left along Interstate 75 for months, cut a hole in the top and stuck in a music stand.

        The makeshift pulpit is his allegory of the faith journey. “The orange barrels direct us in the right path,” says the Rev. Morgan, 42, of Fairfield. “They keep us from going down the wrong road.”

        When the Rev. Anderson started at First Baptist in January, he wanted to find a way to show the middle and high school students that Christians could be a little crazy, that they could have fun and still love the Lord. The Rev. Anderson remembered the Rev. Morgan's creation of the orange barrel pulpit and he started searching.

        Eaton Asphalt Paving Co., of Fort Wright, donated a brand-new barrel. The church maintenance supervisor attached the top half of a lectern and the Rev. Anderson began using the pulpit this month in Sunday School classes and during youth services.

        “I imagine God is up in heaven laughing,” the Rev. Anderson says. “God has a sense of humor. I think he probably finds it fun too.”


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