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Architecture and art serve as spiritual symbols

Oral Roberts University is full of ethereal reminders showcased around the campus, and each piece brings to life the university’s mission and vision.

Walking around the campus, guests may notice students laughing, the squawks of Canada geese in the distance, and a spaceship that seems to have landed in the middle of two gardens. The sidewalks are a maze and the buildings, a labyrinth. On sunny days when the light reflects off the chapel at just the right angle, students become blinded. There are stairs everywhere and a hall of mirrors with a mysterious lady. It may take until graduation to figure out the basement—and even then, the Learning Resource Center still proves to be a challenge.

“For [artists], using visual and aesthetic dialogue to communicate spreads the value in Christ’s message,” said professor Jason Howell. “Chancellor Roberts was on the forefront of using media in many forms to proclaim the healing power of Christ.”

One such proclamation stands at the entrance in Billy Joe Daugherty Circle surrounded by the Avenue of Flags. The bronze sculpture modeled after Oral Roberts’ hands stands at 60 feet.

The “Praying Hands” once stood in front of the City of Faith Medical Research Center, now the CityPlex Towers, as a memorial of prayer paired with medicine in evidence of faith.

“The Hands represent the hand of the physician using the natural forces of God’s earth and his skill, and the hand of the prayer partner offering the prayer of faith,” Oral Roberts said in 1981.

The Wall of Sacrifice, located on the opposite side of the sculpture, was added in 2012. Members of ORU’s community sought to honor those who have given their lives to spread the healing message of Jesus Christ by creating the wall.

Nine ORU alumni names are sketched onto the gold plates. Inscribed above the names, 1 Corinthians 15:54 proclaims the hope that “death is swallowed up in victory.”

Down the winding road away from the Wall is a little girl who stands in front of Gabrielle Hall. She wears a joyful expression and a flower dress. She provides hope to all who pass her, but she has never moved from her spot. Her name is Gabrielle Christian Salem. She was Richard Roberts’ niece, and was only six years old when she passed away from an inoperable malignant brain tumor.

Gabrielle Hall, a portrait of the little girl hanging in the lobby, and her life-size bronze statue designed by Beverly Paddleford honor her memory.

Oral Roberts University makes it abundantly clear that prayer is a central ingredient to its mission. This is indicated by the placement of the Prayer Tower, located directly in the center of campus between the stunning Ralph L. Reece Memorial Gardens. A red flame burns on the top of the tower to symbolize extending the revitalizing and restorative power of prayer to the rest of the campus.

Jesus can be seen sitting and teaching two students in the “Prayer Gardens” in the shadow of the tower. This sculpture was also designed by Paddleford, and was added to the Reece Memorial Gardens in 2000. “The Master Teacher” represents the truth students can only learn the will of God for their lives by sitting at the feet of Jesus.

“When we see a successful piece, and truly admire it, we have a chance to admire [the Holy Spirit’s] gifts to us,” Howell said.

All of the art on ORU’s campus acts as a creative reminder of God’s sovereignty, Jesus’ healing love, and the Holy Spirit’s restorative and demonstrative power for students, faculty, and community members who find themselves touched by each unique piece.

Oral Roberts University is not like any other campus. The buildings carry a majestic air about them, and there is peace which surrounds the property. Inevitably, guests become aware of a happiness, of a sense of peace. Here, students have lived; they have been happy. This campus has been theirs, however brief their time. ORU has sheltered them; they learned and loved within its walls. The campus and art surrounding ORU has changed the students in some way. They can never be the same.