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Philadelphia Church of God
buys Swans in Flight

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Philadelphia Church of God
buys Swans in Flight

by Dixon Cartwright

BIG SANDY, Texas--The Philadelphia Church of God's pastor general, Gerald Flurry of Edmond, Okla., announced in April 2009 his church has bought the famous bronze swan sculpture that graces the former campus of Ambassador University near Big Sandy.

According to a PCG press release, Mr. Flurry on April 8 inspected Swans in Flight, sculpted by Sir David Wynne in 1968, preparatory to its relocation to Oklahoma and the campus of the PCG's Herbert W. Armstrong College.

In 2001, a year after the Worldwide Church of God sold the Big Sandy campus of Ambassador University to the owner of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-crafts stores, the new proprietor transferred ownership of the campus to the Oak Brook, Ill., ministry of Bill Gothard.

For sale since 2002

Mr. Gothard's ministry, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), leases the grounds to the International ALERT Academy, a Christian training and service organization that teaches young men emergency skills. ALERT stands for Air Land Emergency Resource Team.

The IBLP put the sculpture up for sale in 2002 for $300,000.

The PCG reported it contacted the IBLP in 2008 about purchasing the work of art.

Shane Granger, marketing director for the PCG, told The Journal the purchase price "will remain undisclosed by both parties per the sales contract."

The sculpture, Mr. Granger said, "will be moved to Oklahoma this summer for repairs and refinishing before being installed in its new home, a reflecting pool in front of Armstrong Auditorium, sometime in the fall."

Mr. Granger said each swan "will have to be disassembled and moved separately, then refinished and finally reassembled on site. We expect the process to take four to six weeks."

Pastor General Flurry decided to personally inspect the swans before sealing the deal.

After he personally examined the sculpture in Big Sandy, he announced that the bronze work was in good condition and is as beautiful as any sculpture of its kind in the world.

More swans in flight

A slightly older version of Swans in Flight that also dates from 1968 stands poised near the civic center in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

A Web site maintained by the City of Newcastle ( reveals that 83-year-old Sir David (Queen Elizabeth knighted Mr. Wynne in 1994) based Swans in Flight on a poem by Hans Hartvig Seedorff Pederson, "The Swans From the North," with each big bird representing a Scandinavian country.

"The work can also be seen as depicting the take-off of one swan," the Newcastle statement continued, "with each stage frozen as if in a film frame."

Worldwide Church of God publications since 1968 have referred to the sculpture at various times by two different names, Swans in Flight and Swan in Flight.

A plaque beside the version of the sculpture in Newcastle upon Tyne is inscribed "Swans in Flight / David Wynne Sculptor."

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