11/10/11 — 'Freedom Rock' taking shape at Dudley church

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'Freedom Rock' taking shape at Dudley church

By Kelly Corbett
Published in News on November 10, 2011 1:46 PM

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Allison Carter

Pastor Blane Smith of Dudley Christian Church works on the "Freedom Rock" on the church grounds. The creation of the patriotic monument has become a community effort. It will be dedicated during morning services Sunday.

In front of Dudley Christian Church stands a large red, white and blue striped tent. Underneath, a 24-ton rock is being painted in a patriotic theme by Pastor Blane Smith to honor the men and women in the United States military.

Jane Beaman, chairman of the church's membership committee, said the inspiration for the project came when she received an email about a similar project, "the Freedom Rock," being undertaken by an artist in Iowa.

Mrs. Beaman said she has been calling the Dudley church's version the "Stone Soup" memorial, after the children's storybook, because so many people have put something into the project.

Church members have donated everything from light poles, rocks and flags to flowers, gas money and paint supplies. No church money has been used in the process, he said. The rock was donated by the Hanson-Princeton quarry in Princeton.

"It's a miracle the way things happen when you have a common goal," said Mrs. Beaman. Daniels and Daniels Construction Co. brought the rock to the church for free and the Tilton Crane Co. set it in place, also for free.

Rose bushes, multiple flags and benches -- all donated -- will surround the rock, creating a memorial for the entire community to enjoy. Metal Crafters of Goldsboro custom made three flagpoles for the memorial and the Woodmen of the World Insurance Co. of Mount Olive donated the flags -- an American flag, a North Carolina flag and a prisoner of war/missing-in-action flag.

Smith has been working every day on the rock since late October, rain or shine. Sand Hills Gas Co. donated the tent to make that possible.

Mrs. Beaman said that at first her idea was met with skepticism.

"I wouldn't say it was a really hard sale, but a lot of people looked at me and said, 'A rock?' "

But one look at a photo of the Iowa project convinced the church's membership.

Smith, who worked as a professional artist before entering the ministry, said he went online to find patriotic designs to fit the rock's shape. He said he has no idea when it will be completely finished, but it will be dedicated this Sunday during a special service.

"I'll be glad to get away from the side I'm on, because the side I'm on is ragged," he said this week. "I'm a printer, so I wanted everything to be hard-edged."

He said his painting skills were a bit rusty when he started but that as he worked it began to come back to him.

"I spent 20 years as a commercial artist before I got the call to become a preacher," Smith said. "I guess it's like riding a bike."

Smith drew basic outlines around the rock and is currently making his way to the third of four sides of the rock. The American flag, soldiers and the Statue of Liberty are all prominently featured on it.

The rock will be unveiled Sunday at 11 a.m. during a veteran's memorial service at the church.

Command Sgt. Major Andrew Haswell from Asheville will be the guest speaker for the service.

"So far, we've gotten an RSVP from two World War II veterans," Mrs. Beaman said.

Encore will be singing patriotic music and the service will open with "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree," originally performed by The Andrews sisters and performed by The DCC3. Trumpeter Amy Jackson will also perform at the service.

There will be a covered dish lunch with a fallen comrade table in the front of the room and one chair turned up at each table in honor of a fallen comrade. A slice of lemon sprinkled with salt will sit on a plate on top of a black placemat to represent the tears of the family of the fallen comrade as well as a rose laid across an upside-down goblet to represent the blood shed in battle.

In addition to a blessing for the meal, everyone in attendance will observe a moment of silence and join in a toast of water in remembrance of those who have died in the name of freedom.

There will also be a slideshow presentation of photos of veterans from the church family and community.

Mrs. Beaman said they have already received more than 100 photos.

"I just really never imagined that when this whole thing started that it would mean this much to so many people. That's been the most wonderful surprise of all," Mrs. Beaman said.

Mrs. Beaman is hoping the rock will attract people to the church.

"We have a lot of military veterans and active duty in our area and we're supposed to reach out to those people," she said.