The Magnificent New Armstrong Auditorium
After the Queen of Sheba toured Solomon’s temple, Scripture says “there was no more spirit in her” (1 Kings 10:5). She had heard about the penetrating insights of King Solomon, the luxurious splendor of the house he built for God, the magnificent gardens surrounding the temple, the blissful countenance of Solomon’s entourage, their regal attire and the sumptuous delicacies served in the royal court. But when she finally saw it all for herself, it literally took her breath away.
I didn’t know the half of it, she exclaimed. This actually exceeds the fame that had spread by word of mouth (verse 7). She left Jerusalem so moved with emotion, so giddy with delight, that she actually glorified the great God of Israel!
In September, the Philadelphia Church of God, which sponsors the Trumpet magazine, completed a new performing arts center on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Oklahoma. Armstrong Auditorium may not rise to the level of excellence of Solomon’s house, but judging by the initial wave of reviews, it will take your breath away.
From Around the World
“Jaw dropping” is how Ray Hibbard described his experience. “Frankly,” Hibbard wrote in Edmond Life & Leisure, “calling this palace a building is probably the largest understatement you have ever seen in print. At every turn of my tour, I was at a loss in finding words to describe how impressed I was with the choice of materials and quality construction.”
He was especially moved by the international array of building materials and feature pieces that are displayed throughout the facility. For example, the grand mall, which wraps around the entrance, is covered with 40,000 square feet of Turkish travertine marble—nearly enough tiles to fill a square acre. The 120-foot-long reflecting pool in the middle of the mall showcases a beautiful bronze sculpture, Swans in Flight, made by world-renowned British sculptor, Sir David Wynne, who personally attended the auditorium’s dedication.
Inside the house, suspended above the grand lobby, are three massive chandeliers, weighing nearly six tons in total. Of the more than 50,000 pieces of shimmering crystal clinging to the chandeliers, about two thirds are Strass crystal made by Swarovski of Innsbruck, Austria—the “Rolls Royce” manufacturer of chandelier crystal.
The two 7-foot candelabras featured on the lobby floor were commissioned by the Shah of Iran in 1971 to commemorate the 2,500-year anniversary of the Persian Empire. Each candelabra weighs 650 pounds and supports 802 pieces of Baccarat crystal from France.
Behind the candelabras in the grand lobby are three gorgeous feature walls made of caramel onyx. The semi-precious stone was quarried in Azerbaijan, near the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, and then cut and polished in Italy.
Upstairs, Spanish and Chinese marble covers 2,000 square feet in the balcony lobby. In the theater, American cherry wood veneer, with matching grain, stretches from floor to ceiling on both sidewalls. Backstage are two concert grand pianos manufactured by Steinway and Sons in Hamburg, Germany.
It is palatial, said Tricia Pemberton in the Daily Oklahoman. Touring the edifice and its surrounding grounds is like a “study in opulence,” she wrote.
Writing in Distinctly Oklahoma, a monthly periodical, Dena Edwards said the auditorium, with its 12 towering pillars in front, dominates the surrounding woodlands in north Edmond “like a modern Greek temple.”
Edmond Monthly, another local magazine, featured the auditorium on the cover of its September issue. “The aesthetics of Armstrong Auditorium are, in a word, breathtaking,” wrote Kent Anderson. It gives Oklahoma a concert hall that is truly world-class, he said.
Chris Pritchard, the lead architect for the project, said, “This is going to become a landmark for north Edmond—a true world-class facility, the scale of which is unmatched here.” Clif Warren, who wrote about the project back in April, predicted it would possibly become “the most beautiful temple in the Southwest region.”
Raising the Ruins
From the beginning, we have modeled our construction project after a similar project completed by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1974—Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California. That house became the crown jewel of the Ambassador College campus toward the end of Mr. Armstrong’s 55-year ministry.
After Mr. Armstrong’s death in 1986, the new leaders systematically dismantled the church’s body of beliefs plank by plank. They changed the church’s commission and gutted its faith. They stopped the television program, closed the college, and eventually sold off all the church’s most valuable assets—including God’s house.
Beginning in late 1989, the same God who raised up His Church under Mr. Armstrong started all over again with just 12 people, led by my father, Gerald Flurry. After a little more than 10 years, the scattered remains of those who held to their original faith had grown in number to support an exciting new phase of God’s work: raising the ruins of the work God did through Mr. Armstrong.
It started with 160 acres of pastureland located in north Edmond. As work began in earnest to resurrect God’s college, beginning with the John Amos Field House in 2001, we set aside space on the land for a proposed house that would be dedicated to God.
After obtaining all of Mr. Armstrong’s major writings at the end of a grueling six-year lawsuit in 2003, my father sharpened his focus on the house of God. At a Pasadena auction in July 2004, we purchased one of our two Steinway pianos, a concert grand that Mr. Armstrong had originally ordered for Ambassador in 1983.
We also bought the two candelabras commissioned by the shah in 1971. Mr. Armstrong originally purchased the pair from a London department store in 1973 and placed them inside the main lobby of Ambassador Auditorium.
In 2005, we contacted an Oklahoma City architectural firm about building God’s house. At our first meeting, we handed over a stack of pictures and literature about Ambassador Auditorium. We said we wanted a structure that rivaled the elegance and quality of Ambassador and that blended in with our more rural landscape in Central Oklahoma.
In 2006, we contacted the same acoustical firm that helped design Ambassador Auditorium’s near-perfect acoustics.
In early 2007, with architectural drawings nearly complete, my father described his vision to members of the Philadelphia Church of God: “We could create a magnificent jewel in this area, an edifice that would stand as a monument to the living God like nothing else we could do in this world. The more I think about it, the more the idea inspires me!”
In September that year, he announced that plans were indeed going forward on the house of God.
On Jan. 6, 2008, on a gorgeous spring-like day, with temperatures topping 70 degrees, 500 people joined my father in a 45-minute ceremony kicking off this historic project. This auditorium, he told the gathering, would bring more glory to God than any other building project we had undertaken.
A month later, with earthmovers digging the hole that would become the auditorium basement, my father requested a significant revision to the architectural drawings. He decided to raise the canopy in front of the building by 16 feet, which increased the towering size of the 12 pillars to 48 feet. Besides opening up the view of the campus from the balcony lobby, this change gave the front of the structure a look that is distinctly Ambassadoresque.
In 2009, we landed yet another piece from the Armstrong era: the beautiful Swans in Flight. Mr. Armstrong assigned David Wynne to the task in 1968. Upon completion, it was placed at the entrance of the Ambassador College campus in Big Sandy, Texas. After we purchased the work of art from the campus’s new owners in May 2009, we disassembled the 1,200-pound sculpture and moved it to Norman, Oklahoma, where it was refurbished and stored until January of this year. It was installed on our campus in March.
Finally, there are the gold-plated bronze letters affixed to the onyx wall featured in the center of the grand lobby. They read, “Armstrong Auditorium: Made possible by gifts from the Philadelphia Church of God. Dedicated to the honor and glory of the Great God.” Except for where the names are different, these are the original letters that used to be on the feature wall inside the Ambassador Auditorium lobby, generously given to us by the current owners of Ambassador!
For nearly a decade, members and supporters of this work heard about the majesty and beauty of God’s house. It is by their sacrifice and freewill gifts that this project has moved forward, step by step, without delay. They heard of its grand design—how the towering portico, the color scheme inside the theater and the various assortments of marble, sandstone and onyx were all designed with Ambassador Auditorium in mind.
They heard of the many Armstrong accents collected along the way and tucked away in storage, like the two candelabra—as if longing for the day they would finally settle into their new home. They heard of the truckloads of trees and bushes—more than 3,000 of them—that were delivered for the grounds surrounding the auditorium. And they heard about the many miracles that have made it possible for such a small band of supporters to complete a project this magnificent, this massive.
Now that the auditorium has been dedicated to our great God and its doors opened to the general public, many brethren have been able to see it all for themselves.