A near-capacity crowd filled almost all of the 829 available seats in the new Herbert C. Richert Auditorium December 9, 2017, to witness and participate in the official dedication of the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts on the Tabor College campus.
“This is a historic day in the history of Tabor College,” President Jules Glanzer announced at the start of the hour-long service. “Nehemiah rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem in 52 days, Solomon built the temple of Jerusalem in seven years and the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts was somewhere in between there,” he joked.
Glanzer said the college community saw a need for a new auditorium as far back as 1934, when students met in the former college chapel. He said a proposal for such a project was announced some 51 years ago when Jack Braun was “wooed to come here and be the drama director in 1966.”
Completing the dream took time as well.
“We have spent six years raising the money for this facility, construction of it has been 18 months—and if you notice, there are still some thing things that aren’t yet finished,” Glanzer said.
The $13 million facility, which is dedicated to musical, visual and theater arts, was constructed with many large gifts and sacrificial gifts, he added.
Glanzer said the added goal to raise another $1 million to complete the project debt-free is less than $150,000 from completion.
“You the people have been so generous,” Glanzer said. “You listened to the promptings of the Spirit and generously gave.”
Glanzer noted the challenge of this building project: “As Jesus said, ‘With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Or, as Nelson Mandela said, ‘All things seem impossible until it’s done.’”
The program included vocal and instrumental music, including a composition for chorus, brass and organ written especially for the event by Brad Vogel, professor of music.
“For the dedication song, I selected as the foundation of the text 1 Chronicles 29:10-14, which is King David’s prayer of thanksgiving for the gifts given by the nation of Israel to build the temple,” Vogel said in a press release prior to the dedication. “I also incorporated texts from Psalm 127 and 1 Corinthians that speak of God’s involvement in the work of our lives, highlighting that he is the ultimate Builder and that we are both the work of his hands and coworkers with him.”
Del Gray, associate professor of biblical and religious studies at Tabor, presented the dedication message titled, “The Secret Signature of Our Souls,” which the arts both express and enhance.
“What we do here in this building is a reflection of who God is and what he is doing among us,” said Gray.
“As humans, we have deep longings that we can’t always put our fingers on,” said Gray. “Paul calls them ‘groanings too deep for words.’ In some ultimate way, these longings are our remembrances of what we were made for.”
The Center for the Arts reflects the desire of the Tabor College community to seek God and is a physical reminder of the human desire for learning, community and beauty—the arts, said Gray.
“The thing about beauty is that it points beyond this present age to a difference one altogether. We don’t get to hear the whole masterpiece until that day in the future where all of our deepest, truest longings are fulfilled,” said Gray.
“But for now, while we faithfully look forward to that day, we will come to this place to ardently listen for the faintest echo of some earlier music we are born remembering…. Part of the power of the Christian story, and of our Mennonite Brethren story, is that it witnesses to a day when our current experience of truth and beauty will no longer be fleeting and temporary.”
The dedication program also included words of gratitude from the building committee, the financial campaign committee and other entities on and off campus. A light-hearted sketch presented by five Tabor students and Lyndon Vix, outgoing chair of the Tabor College Board of Directors who moderated the program, highlighted various features of the new building. The dedicatory prayer was given by David Karber, incoming board chair.
Before and after the dedication program, guests were free to enjoy roaming the building on their own.
An exhibit entitled “House and Home,” coordinated by art faculty members Dereck Hamm and Shin Hee Chin, reflected on the new facility as a house of worship and as a home for the arts at Tabor College. In her commentary on the exhibit, Chin noted that now the art department has a “place of our own after ‘renting’ space in a former cafeteria and science labs.”
While Richert Auditorium was filled for the Saturday afternoon dedication, every seat was taken Sunday evening and an overflow was created in Prieb Harder Theater to accommodate the nearly 900 people who attended Handel’s Messiah, the first performance in the new facility. Approximately 190 vocalists and orchestra members filled the stage for the annual Christmas concert.
The dedication weekend began already Friday, Dec. 8, when the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts.
With files from the Hillsboro Free Press.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and one grandson. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.