Tour the Building
Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, located in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, was completed in 1929. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of ecclesiastical art deco architecture in the United States and has been designated by the Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark. It is also an international United Methodist Historic Site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Guided tours of the building are given every Sunday at noon, beginning in the church library on the second floor. Guided tours can also be arranged during the week by calling 918.699.0131 or emailing Becky Hailey. Self-guided tours are also available any time the building is open.
Like many Art Deco buildings, Boston Avenue United Methodist Church reveled in the use of various different building materials, so metal, glass, terra cotta, Indiana limestone and Minnesota granite can all be found. The exterior is decorated with numerous terra cotta sculptures by the Denver sculptor, Robert Garrison, who had been a student of Adah Robinson's in Oklahoma City. These sculptures include several groups of people at prayer representing Spiritual Life, Religious Education and Worship. In these groups again can be found the motif of two hands together upward in prayer. While the building is in many ways unique, the idea of the large, semi-circular main auditorium has an earlier precursor in another Methodist church, Louis Sullivan's St. Paul's Methodist Church, designed in 1910 and built, somewhat modified, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1914.
The building's straight, vertical lines suggest the church's reaching toward God, and the tower's four shards of glass are placed at angles to the four directions - receivers and reflectors of light. The downward-flowing lines in the terra cotta motif symbolize the outpouring of God's love and are echoed throughout the building. The tower is 255 feet high and fifteen floors. The first fourteen are offices, and the top floor is a small prayer chapel with space above for an electronic carillon.
Adah Robinson - Building Designer
Like a sermon in stone, the limestone building was designed to honor God and identify its members as people of God. As Dr. Adah M. Robinson, building designer, writes, "All appointments have been designed with the hope of creating a place that is honest, harmonious, and spiritualized; that those who may not respond through their reason and those who may not react through their emotion may at least through visualization be moved to a higher conception of the Presence of Divine Power." The columbarium photo was taken by well-known Tulsa photographer John McCormack.
At the top of the tower, as well as on many of the other high points of the church and used much in the same manner that churches in the middle ages utilized crockets and finials, is a stylized sculpture that represents two hands raised upward in prayer. This motif of praying hands is one that is echoed throughout the building and is one of the areas of design that can be traced back to the early drawings by Adah Robinson.
Arched Doorways & Circuit Riders Sculptures
The downward-flowing lines in the terra cotta motif above each doorway symbolize the outward pouring of God’s love on all who pass beneath. As we enter, we receive God’s love and blessings, which we take with us out into the world as we exit. This motif can be found throughout the building.
Over the north entrance of the building are idealized statues of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, his brother Charles Wesley, a hymn writer and church organizer, and Susanna Wesley, their mother.
Above the south entrance are the equestrian Circuit Riders, statues of the early Methodists engaged in spreading the Good Word. Two of the three riders represent historic individuals, Bishop Francis Asbury, the first American Methodist bishop, and Bishop William McKendrie. The third figure, the one in the center, is symbolic of all the other men of God who did His bidding from horseback. The face for this rider was created by Garrison using the church minister's father-in-law, the Rev. T.L. Darnell, as his model. Rev. Darnell had in fact been a circuit rider for half a century.
Arched Doorways & Staircase to Sanctuary Balcony
Distinctive angled arch doorways suggest God's blessing on all who pass through. The arched form is used throughout the church for doors, windows, etched glass, and detailing of the brass hardware. The seven-pointed stars seen on the exterior and interior walls represent the seven virtues: patience, purity, knowledge, long-suffering, kindness, love and truth.
Sanctuary, Circular Dome & Möller Pipe Organ
All lines in the sanctuary lead to the pulpit, emphasizing the importance of the Word of God. The 750,000-piece mosaic behind the choir loft forms an aura of light radiating from the center cross and mirroring the design in the windows. The 13-foot bronze cross symbolizes the resurrection of Christ with an indentation that gives the impression of a figure, once there, now risen. The color and design are created to give maximum light. The circular dome symbolizes the infinite. The exposed pipes of the 105-rank Möller pipe organ reflect the angled arches of the doorways, suggesting God's blessing on all who enter. The organ now includes 73 stops, 105 ranks, and 5,869 pipes which are controlled by a four-manual console with electro-pneumatic action and solid state combination action.
Stained Glass Windows
The downward-flowing lines in the stained glass windows symbolize the outpouring of God's love. Light is a major symbol representing spiritual growth. As sunlight is essential to physical growth, so divine light is inherent to each person's spiritual growth. Two flowers indigenous to Oklahoma are also included in the window design to signify vital, growing Christianity. The coreopsis, which grows in the driest soil, symbolizes the hardiness and joy of the Christian faith. The tritoma, or torch lily, with its unusual downward blossoms, represents the generosity of the faith. Its strong stem is indicative of the strength of the church.
The long terrazzo hallway on the east side of the sanctuary, known as Great Hall, was originally built as the "social lobby" for church gatherings and receptions. This long marble hallway runs behind the sanctuary and connects the north and south entrances of the sanctuary. On Sunday mornings, it serves as a greeting place between services. With its wonderful acoustics, Great Hall is used for special musical Advent and Lenten worship services. Two art deco mosaics at either end of the hall were added in 1993 as part of the church's centennial celebration. Each weighs 3,000 pounds and contains a quarter-million tiles, which were fired near Venice, Italy.
The north mosaic depicts God as revealed in the Hebrew scriptures, and includes the burning bush, Torah scrolls, prophet's staff or crozier, and "Adonai," the Hebrew name for God used most often in Jewish worship.
The south mosaic shows how God is revealed in the Christian scriptures - the darkened cave where Jesus was born, the star announcing his birth, and the stylized cross. The two sacraments of the Protestant tradition are also depicted - water for baptism and wheat and grapes for Holy Communion. Radiating triangles remind us of the triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Lines in the Rose Chapel are straight, as opposed to the sanctuary, which are curved. The three carved figures in the organ screen denote the chapel's function: meditation, ceremony, and worship. Windows convey impressions of comfort and peace, and are reflected in the carpet borders in the adjoining parlor, which is used for services and receptions.
Bishops' Hall is the glassed in area between the main building and the education building, which was added on in 1965. Stained glass doorways pictured here lead into the Columbarium.
The Columbarium was added in 2000. It is a sacred space containing 1,056 niches designed to hold the cremains of beloved church members. Now church members and their loved ones can be buried at the church, demonstrating faith in a God who created us and loves us, and to whom each of us returns. A 10-foot-wide skylight provides an impressive view of the church tower rising into the sky, and the terrazzo floors and art deco lighting mirror the art deco architecture. A chapel in the center of the room provides a quiet space for meditation, reflection and prayer. It was designed by Tulsa architect Roger Coffey.
The Jubilee Center
The Jubilee Center, opened and dedicated on May 5, 2002, provides 14 classrooms, a catering kitchen, offices, shower and locker facilities, a youth lounge and game room, and a large multipurpose gymnasium for basketball and large group meetings and dinners. Architect Roger Coffey designed the new addition to match the art deco architecture of the main building.
This photo, taken in Boston Avenue Park on the north side of the church property, features our interfaith statue, which represents the importance of interfaith relations to our congregation. It was installed and dedicated to the Rev. Dr. Mouzon Biggs, former Senior Minister of Boston Avenue, in 2006.