At the grand opening of Armstrong Auditorium on September 5, 2010, the elderly Sir David Wynne stepped out from a white limousine and slowly made his way up the Auditorium ramp to dedicate his Swans in Flight sculpture. At the top, he stood and looked out across the Grand Mall where his sculpture stood in a reflecting pool, just as it had on the Big Sandy campus. The five swans appeared to soar into flight as six water jets cascaded over them. Although he may not have known it, what he was witnessing was an example of the many detailed miracles God performed in raising the ruins of the Philadelphia era of His Church. The story of how the swans came to adorn the Grand Mall of Armstrong Auditorium is an inspiring one filled with many miracles that teach us the importance God places on details.
After Mr. Armstrong commissioned Mr. Wynne to create the egret sculpture for Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena in the late 1960s, these two men became close friends. Mr. Wynne once said of Mr. Armstrong, “I loved him, and he loved me.” This relationship was rekindled over 40 years later when the pcg contacted Mr. Wynne for advice in transporting and installing our newly purchased sculpture. It was miraculous that Mr. Wynne was still alive at this time and that at the age of 84, he was willing and excited to fly from London to Edmond for the unveiling of the sculpture.
Long before the pcg had even purchased the swan sculpture however, as construction of God’s house slowly progressed; no final decision had been made as to what type of water feature, if any, would sit in front of it. Several designs were presented to Pastor General Gerald Flurry to illustrate what the various water features might look like. The Swans in Flight sculpture was not for sale at that time. The swans were still presented as a long shot option, but we were not optimistic that we would be able to acquire them.
In the hope that a miracle would occur, however, plans were drawn up for a reflecting pool that would house the swans. The dimensions were drawn based on how the pool would best fit in with the Auditorium. Not knowing the actual dimensions of the original reflecting pool at Big Sandy, our reflecting pool was designed to be 30 feet wide and extend to the same length as the glass windows around the lobby of the Auditorium—approximately 120 feet. Because the dimensions of the pool were dictated by the proportions of the Auditorium, the actual size of the reflecting pool had in essence been decided three years earlier, when the original Auditorium plans were finalized.
As these designs were being drawn up and considered, the pcg approached the owners of the Swans in Flight sculpture to see if they would consider selling it to us. Much to our surprise, they agreed to consider it. Following months of negotiations, Mr. Flurry wanted to make one final inspection of the condition of the bronze sculpture. Marketing director Shane Granger and Mr. Flurry drove to Big Sandy to inspect the sculpture inch-by-inch. Two days later, the sale was completed. This 40-year-old sculpture was sitting in amazing condition, and we were able to buy it when it wasn’t even up for sale!
While they were inspecting the sculpture, Mr. Flurry and Mr. Granger got on either end of a tape measure to measure the dimensions of Big Sandy’s reflecting pool. Calling building and grounds manager Roger Brandon back at headquarters, Mr. Granger told him the measurements. Incredibly, the dimensions of the reflecting pool at Ambassador and the proposed reflecting pool for Armstrong Auditorium were exactly the same in width and less that ¾ of an inch different in length! The reflecting pool that sat on the Ambassador College campus was virtually the same size as the proposed pool on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College. What miraculous details!
Imagine being there at this moment. Imagine that you have just been told that the measurements to the reflecting pool in front of the new Armstrong Auditorium are virtually the same as the pool that housed the same sculpture on one of the campuses God raised up through Mr. Armstrong. Here you are, mere men building this magnificent edifice for God, and yet it was just like God was saying, “Don’t worry, I know the dimensions.” He had the dimensions planned out at least three years in advance of our even owning the swans! This was certainly a “goose bump moment. It was chilling!” said Mr. Brandon. God was raising the ruins by performing miracles in the details.
The miracles that God has performed in raising the ruins are details that God is deeply concerned about. These are not just things to acknowledge and move on from—these are “goose bump moments!”
In a sermon that Mr. Flurry gave soon after the purchase of the Swans in Flight sculpture, he said, “God has given us these gifts to raise up the ruins, and He’s even giving us some of the treasures He gave to Mr. Armstrong. This swan sculpture is going to bring life to our campus in a special way.”
This history should bring life to each of us in a very special way. It shows that God cares so much about the details! Even when it comes to a swan sculpture in a reflecting pool, He prepared to raise the ruins years in advance. Recognize the moments that God has a hand in, and be inspired by the miracles in the details.