EDMOND—It was 75 degrees and rainy at 8 a.m. on Sunday, August 19, when Philadelphia Church of God marketing director Shane Granger and a certain pcg News scribe met at the home of Philadelphia Church of God Pastor General Gerald Flurry on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College. Mr. Flurry and I packed our bags into the back of Granger’s vehicle for the 35-minute drive to the Oklahoma City airport nine hours ahead of his August 19-20 personal appearance campaign in Phoenix, Arizona.
Two more vehicles followed Granger out of the faculty row gate, one with Western United States Regional Director Brian Davis and his wife, Suzanne, and another with audio-video technician Joshua Sloan, his equipment, and boxes of Church literature.
Mr. Flurry discussed with Granger his new campaign lecture, “Holy Roman Empire Goes Public.” The group also discussed the 2020 United States presidential election, agreeing that it will be even more contentious than the 2016 election. Granger mentioned attending a speech on national unity by Oklahoma Congressman Steve Russell, and the group also talked about the book club on campus reading The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill.
The motorcade arrived at the private hangar just after 8:40 a.m. The Church’s aircraft mechanic, Billy Carrouth, greeted the group with his customary Okie humor and opened the gate, allowing the three vehicles to drive across the tarmac to the staircase of the purple- and gold-striped pcg Gulfstream G-450. Neon-vested hangar employees handed the luggage up to the pcg’s co-pilot, Scott Humphreys, who loaded them into the aft cargo compartment.
Onboard, Mr. Flurry, the Davises, Sloan and I met pcg cabin attendant Paris Turgeon, who was serving on her first domestic flight.
“I’m next to the mean guy over here,” Mr. Davis joked about Sloan, who had played Assyrian general Rabshakeh in the Undefeated musical a week prior.
The plane departed Will Rogers World Airport at 9:02 a.m. (Central Time) and arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at 8:55 a.m. (Mountain Time). During the two-hour flight, Paris Turgeon served a brunch of frittatas and baked French toast to the two pilots and five passengers. She said that even though she had tested the recipes in the aircraft oven earlier in the week, it took much longer to cook the food at altitude and required the entire flight time to cook, serve and clean up the meal.
Preaching Elder Andrew Hessong and member Don Brockelmeyer, who had both traveled from California for the campaign, drove their vehicles onto the tarmac at the private hangar to pick up the group, while the pilots and Paris Turgeon stayed behind to power down the plane and to clean up. Mr. Hessong and Brockelmeyer pointed out that Sky Harbor was the site of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s now-infamous June 2016 meeting.
The caravan arrived at the Phoenix Biltmore Embassy Suites before 10 a.m. Mr. Flurry, the Davises, Sloan and I walked past the koi pond and palm trees in the lobby and checked into our respective rooms five hours before the usual check-in time, at a reduced day rate. Mr. Flurry used most of the time before the 3:30 p.m. campaign to tweak his message, also eating from a snack basket Mr. Hessong had provided.
In the afternoon, the hall began to fill with attendees. As they waited outside the meeting hall for the last individuals to take their seats, Mr. Flurry, Mr. Davis and Mr. Hessong spoke with Arizona member and campaign security volunteer Levi Petit, chatting about Petit’s previous career spent on a hovering helicopter inspecting and fixing high-voltage electrical lines in mountains or other rough terrain.
“[Mr. Flurry is] very inspirational,” Petit said. “… That was the first time I’ve ever gotten to stand there with that many ministers and God’s apostle at the same time.”
The campaign began with an introductory video including European advertisements that promote relics from the Holy Roman Empire and an animated Daniel 2 statue standing astride the Continent. Mr. Flurry then took the stage and spoke to 82 pcg members and 125 other Philadelphia Trumpet subscribers about “one of the biggest news stories by far.” He presented the grand scope of history connecting all seven heads of the Holy Roman Empire, and he questioned Europe’s enthusiasm for the legacy of Charlemagne—a king from whom Adolf Hitler drew inspiration. Mr. Flurry concluded by referencing the hope of the new throne of David. (Much of Mr. Flurry’s message can be found in his Trumpet article “The Holy Roman Empire Goes Public—Big Time!”)
“I always have two or three conclusions, so forgive me for that,” Mr. Flurry joked toward the end of his 75-minute lecture. After speaking for yet a few more minutes, he concluded one final time, mentioning, “I have another conclusion here, but I’m not going to use it.”
Afterward, Mr. Flurry spoke with attendees for about two hours. Non-member attendees had come from Arizona and New Mexico, and members had driven from Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas.
Nevada member Najam Brown said he was excited to see how the non-members had received the message. He also said the event gave him a “bubbly excitement” for the World Tomorrow.
Mr. Flurry returned to his room and went to bed early in preparation for the next night’s campaign lecture. After the work was done for the day, Sloan and I finished off some burgers at a lobby restaurant.
At 8 a.m. the next morning, Mr. Flurry and I breakfasted on omelets and fruit and chatted with Arizona members Syl and Ella Yoder. Mr. Flurry then stayed in his room until 7:20 p.m., preparing his second campaign message, resting, and catching up on television news. Meanwhile, Mr. Davis taught his college classes via telephone in the morning, and counseled with members in the afternoon. Paris Turgeon, who had stayed the night before at the home of Arizona members Steve and Shannon Irwin, took a late lunch with her hosts, with Sloan taking a break from setting up audio-visual equipment to join the group.
“[The Irwins] talked about how much they loved working the literature table and felt like it was the best job,” Sloan said, “because they were meeting so many people and directly handing out literature.”
Before the second campaign lecture, Arizona member Mary Lexa shared some of the remarks by Trumpet subscribers that she had heard, including members being described as having “beautiful children” and a remark that “the kids were all good—aside from being well-dressed.”
Mr. Flurry’s lecture at 7:30 p.m. covered Hebrews chapters 1-5, a topic he has discussed at all six campaigns since he restarted the campaign series in Chicago in July 2017.
“The message Mr. Flurry delivered from Hebrews was inspiring and yet lovingly corrective and instructive,” Mr. Hessong said. “It was delivered in a loving manner, as if to his own children. Many people got up [afterward] and went right to the literature table, and a few signed up for the follow-up Bible studies.”
Describing his interactions with some of the subscribers, Mr. Hessong said, “A handful of people expressed their excitement for the new truth they were learning. One woman was there with her daughter and granddaughter and made it clear she wanted to begin attending. She remarked how she had come to see that what she was taught about the Bible her whole life was not true. Another man who has been learning about the truth from a family member in the pcg for the last 30 years had a number of questions and clearly was deeply considering the impact this truth would have on his job, marriage and family, and how he would navigate his personal situation moving forward.”
“I was very impressed with the coworkers that I visited with,” Mr. Davis said. “They seemed to have a good bit of knowledge about world events and what we teach doctrinally. More importantly, most had attitudes that seemed very teachable.”
Due to a last-minute change of plans, Mr. Flurry had to leave immediately after the lecture. Brockelmeyer and Arizona member Andrew Worrell drove him and the rest of the Edmond group to the Sky Harbor hangar, where they immediately boarded the jet, joining Paris Turgeon and the pilots.
Instead of the planned 11 p.m. departure, the pilots zipped down the runway at 9:31 p.m. In the air, the group ate meal of sandwiches, and the pilots granted Mr. Davis’s request to briefly sit in the captain’s seat: He joked, “Captain Gay told me I could land the plane.”
Mrs. Davis gushed with praise and gratitude about her opportunity to travel on the pcg aircraft. “Having a private plane for God’s apostle was very necessary,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about what you pack, how much you pack, the weight of your bags, how many bags you have, the size of the liquids you carry, who you sit by on the plane, if your bags will show up at the airport when you do, what is available to watch, if the food is kosher, going through scanners, what clothing you have to take off, what you have to pull out of your bags, and all the wasted travel time to the airport two hours ahead of time or who is flying the plane.”
After an hour and 44 minutes in the air, the plane touched down in Oklahoma City at 1:15 a.m. Herbert W. Armstrong College assistant dean of students Eric Burns picked up Mr. Flurry and me, the Davises retrieved their vehicle, and Sloan waited for Paris Turgeon to finish cleaning the plane, then drove her home. Mr. Flurry arrived at his house just after 2 a.m.
A total of 43 individuals, including 29 Trumpet subscribers who are not already members of the Philadelphia Church of God, signed up for follow-up Bible studies on August 26 and September 9. Mr. Flurry’s next personal appearance campaign takes place in Columbus, Ohio, November 11–12.