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The Unbearable Cross

St John's CrossThe cross of Christ, Paul says, is 'a scandal to Jews and folly to Gentiles'. But does it have to look so grim?

St John's Church near Horsham in West Sussex has removed the 10ft crucifix that stood outside. Its 'horrifying depiction of pain and suffering' was putting people off, said the vicar Rev. Ewen Souter.

The offending image was made from coal dust resin in 1964 by Edward Bainbridge Copnall, one-time president of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. Its depiction of execution scared children and stopped people coming to church, said Souter. In a survey by the church, every comment on the piece was negative.

'The crucifix expressed suffering, torment, pain and anguish,' said the vicar. It evoked 'despair and hopelessness'.

'We want to communicate good news, not bad news, so we need a more uplifting and inspiring symbol than execution on a cross.' He did not want to downplay the crucifixion, he said, but present it more hopefully.

Conversely, an offensive cross has vanished at St Mary's in Nether Alderley, Cheshire, and this time the vicar is protesting. The Coronation Street wedding of Tyrone and Molly was filmed there, and the producers asked if they could lose the cross, says Rev. James Milnes. When he refused, they obscured it with a candelabra and fake flowers, explaining that 'they did not want to offend anyone'.