Church members say cross burning will not extinguish the power of the sacred symbol

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A charred cross now stands outside First Baptist Church at 525 South Avenue in Springfield after it was set on fire early Friday morning.

However, the pastor and members of the church say the crime will not hinder the message that cross symbolizes.

"The cross is really my Savior because He died for us," Rufus Sanspree said.

Sanspree says that's why he came to the foot of the charred cross with flowers in hand and a prayer in his heart.

"I just want everybody to have peace, because once you've got peace you've got everything," Sanspree said.

Despite this crime, Pastor Michael Overton says this cross still stands for peace, providing a message that withstands any blaze.

"I would pray that whoever tried to destroy this cross would think about the significance of the cross, just because of a cross being burned or destroyed, it doesn't take away the message," Overton said.

Pastor Overton says it was a taxicab driver that first saw the fire at about 2 a.m., which happened to be a time when a power outage left the neighborhood pitched dark and the church without security cameras.

"It could have been a prank. It could have been something more significant. We've not had anybody call to make any kind of threats here, so I really don't know the thought behind it," Overton said.

However, Pastor Overton says the church will cherish this old rugged cross.

"It still endures. It's still standing and we are going to leave it there," Overton said.

Sanspree says he'll continue to cling to the old rugged cross and, he believes, he'll exchange it someday for a crown.

"Really makes me sick to see what people do to crosses because God died for us. He died for us," Sanspree said.

"They can tear this cross down but the message of the cross will endure until Christ comes again," Overton said.

Pastor Overton says, no matter your religion, the time for unity is now.

He is inviting everyone to an event called "Unity on Division" on September 23rd at the park just down the street from the church.