Church shirt appears in movie

July 29th, 2010    Author: Tonya Brooks    Filed Under: Community

Vampires, werewolves, and a giant horseshoe crab are now part of the history of Blanchester, Ohio, courtesy of Baptist minister, Jim Rankin.

Rankin is no stranger to show business. He began touring the country as an entertainer when he was seven years old. He was in radio for 23 years. He sang back-up for the Beach Boys, Tom Jones and Ronnie McDowell.

He said that he walked away from it all when he got the calling for the ministry.

Rev. Jim Rankin poses behind the Freedom Worship Baptist Church with the T-shirt used in the movie Twilight Eclipse.
Except that he didn't. He brought his showmanship with him to the Freedom Worship Baptist Church in Blanchester, Ohio.

Because of his show business contacts and a website named Roadside America, his church came to the attention of people making the movie Twilight Eclipse.

They were interested in something that Rankin built at the back of the parking lot - the world's largest horseshoe crab.

The crab is featured on T-shirts worn by church members and now it is part of the quilt that Bella, the female lead in Twilight Eclipse, receives as a graduation gift from her mother.

When asked how he felt about the connection between his church and vampires, Rankin said, "From our end it is an opportunity to reach out to people from long distances."

He said that CNN did a story last year about Roadside America and that story brought plenty of attention to the large crab and the church.

The website describes itself as the "Guide to Uniquely Odd Tourist Attractions." According to Rankin, his crab was chosen as one of the world's five largest tourist attractions.

The website exposure has drawn tourists from 42 states and eight different countries.

"A group from Athens, Greece was flying in to Lansing, Michigan," Rankin said. "The first day they were here, they drove straight down to see the crab. A couple of guys came down from Alabama to take pictures. A group came down the last few days from Pueblo, Colorado specifically because of the movie."

Rankin added, "Most people throughout this area don't know we're here. We get more people from out of state than from around here."

The crab had a long journey to Blanchester. It was built for the Baltimore Maritime Museum, which went into debt during its construction.

"They had to have a fire sale before it opened," said Rankin.

It was picked up and moved to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. After six years in the parking lot there, the museum donated the crab to Rankin's church.

"There were five semi-trucks that brought it," Rankin said. "It took us three months to get it together. It's nine huge pieces. We took a horseshoe crab shell and put it on the table (as a model). It was designed so well that we actually put it together."

The crab is roomy inside. The church has events, such as movie night for the young people, inside the crab. Three weddings have taken place in the crab.

Rankin said, "People ask 'Why a horseshoe crab in Blanchester?' and we show them that there are rocks dug up around here with marine life in them. Once there was a biblical flood and this whole world was marine life."

The Freedom Worship Baptist Church is a testament to Rankin's show business roots. Each room is decorated for a theme. The teen room is decorated like a beach. The children's room is a jungle and the nursery is Noah's Ark.

There is a biblical museum and a fireside cabin room. The sanctuary looks like a courtroom in early Jerusalem.

Every summer the church sponsors Crabfest, a crustacean extravaganza complete with music, food and laser tag. CrabFest takes place this year on Sept. 4. The feature act is "The River of Fire Criss Cross Motorcycle Jump."

The favorite food is, of course, crab burgers.

Rankin said, "When people ask me what I've done, I say I sang, I've written, I've leaped a motorcycle or two. I've traveled across the country with some of the most famous people. I've pastored. I'm a father, husband, friend. I'm the assistant football coach at Blanchester."

Rankin also publishes a magazine called Cross Pointe.

If he is an overachiever, he is a optimistic one. "We still have a lot of adventure to go," he said. "I think this crab has brought a lot of it."
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