THREE MILE BAY — Charles B. Kingsley, Point Peninsula, has made and distributed 96 wooden crosses to eight churches in Jefferson County in an attempt to put “Christ back in Christmas.”
Phrases like “Remember the reason for the season” and “Keep Christ in Christmas” get thrown around a lot this time of year, often getting lost in the cacophony of ringing cash registers. But Mr. Kingsley still hears the message loud and clear and is ready to do more than just pay lip service to the Christian underpinnings of the holiday season.
Mr. Kingsley is a retired experimental engineer who worked at Pratt & Whitney, East Hartford, Conn., testing jet engines his entire professional life. “Where else can you get a budget of umpteen million dollars to go out and break stuff?” he said.
Lately though, he has brought his engineering experience to a very different field, building and painting the 4-foot-tall crosses.
Mr. Kingsley gives the crosses to the churches with which he has partnered, where they are sold for $10 each, with the churches retaining the contributions.
He recently purchased material for an additional 100 crosses. He already has raised $240 for Three Mile Bay Methodist Church, to which he belongs.
He started making the crosses after Thanksgiving and said he hopes they serve as a small reminder of the real meaning of Christmas and inspire people not to be intimidated to show their religious beliefs.
“I’d been thinking about it for a while. A friend of mine was modifying her cottage and had a bunch of this furring strip left over, and she was going to burn it. I said, ‘Oh, I know what to do with that!’ And that’s where the original 36 came from,” he said.
Jonathan L. White of White’s Lumber, Inc., Watertown, said Mr. Kingsley has purchased 1,500 lineal feet of common pine since starting his project. The crosses also are sold at White’s Lumber, with proceeds also going to local churches.
Mr. Kingsley puts the finishing touches on the crosses in a big red barn across from his house overlooking the bay. He paints them white in the shadow of a fully operational World War II DUKW amphibious vehicle he recently restored.
When asked if this will become a new Christmas tradition for him, Mr. Kingsley said, “As long as I can keep the demand going. This thing is on Facebook now. Wouldn’t it be neat for this to go out and plant that seed in communities all across the United States?”
Sister Anne G. Hogan, of All Saints Church in Chaumont, which also receives crosses from Mr. Kingsley, said, “This will become something we do regularly — not only during Christmas but also during Lent.”
Money can be tight this time of year, Sister Anne said, but “it’s not about the money; it’s about having a spiritual symbol that means something to us.”
Sometimes these things start very humbly and then grow, she said.
Though the crosses have made it only as far as Watertown so far, Mr. Kingsley soon will be on his way back to Connecticut to visit his children for the holidays. He said he will be taking some crosses with him for those touched by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.