Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One is Silver and the Other's Gold

Every Brownie and Girl Scout memorized that song - make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold - the first time they went to a troop meeting.

One of my golden, in fact, my most golden friend has died; at way too young an age, 63. We met in 1968 and have been fast friends evermore. Sometimes years passed without phone calls or visits but each time we were somehow able to pick up right where we left off. There was never a time of discomfort no matter how much time had passed.

My live is richer because of him. And I think I can safely say the same about his life because of me. We swapped movies. His love of historical epics balanced my obsession with musicals.

And books. He turned me onto Janet Evanovich and Nelson DeMille. I, in turn, shared my love of Fannie Flagg and Barbara Kingsolver.

And music. Jazzman that he was, he tried his best to relay his enthusiasm of the form but as far as I could get was Manhattan Transfer and Squirrel Nut Zipper.He was happy with that. Being the rock and roll, bluesy, folksy girl I am I offered The Roches and Anders Osborne.

He roller skated while I biked. His love of trains still causes me to stop when I hear that low rumble in the distance. I will forever wave at conductors.

In the early years there was no email and I75 wasn’t a completed roadway but as time passed both of those things worked in our favor. The visits became more frequent; often every two or three years. Email became a constant. We shared broken hearts and hopes of new love. We shared the passing of old friends along with the births of extended families. We shared victories and defeats. It mattered not what we shared we always knew the other would be there to offer strength and support beyond imagination.

It is hard to believe I will never again see his name in my email box or on my phone but in my grief I choose to remember those many good things about how blessed I was that his life intertwined with mine.

Our friendship, though totally uncloaked of religion, was one of no intolerance, no judgment, no expectation. It was about acceptance, forgiveness and fellowship.

I share this for two reasons; one to honor the life of my friend, and two, to compare the difference in friendships and session mates as extended via TSA. It’s a topic many have vented about here. My friend, Dave, and I really had nothing in common except a chance meeting and a zest for life. My SA friends and session mates and I share a common bond. A big common bond. Huge. And still, after all these years, they continue to zoom up and down the interstate all year long; passing by with nary a care to connect. They have and do attend innumerable events at the camp that is less than an hour away.

Someone I once thought was a friend even told me at an odd circumstance of a meeting that she thought of me every time she drove by. Frankly, it’s hard to believe. Many years ago, one family called twice and I met them for dinner. Never, ever has anyone else called or stopped. Not one. I used to do it myself when I passed through their areas or visited somewhere nearby. But as with most one-sided things, it got not gold, but old.

Did I feel deserted? Yes. Was I bitter? Heck, yes. Life went on in spite of no after care and those feelings passed but at time like this, when death deals its final blow, I cannot fail to see the comparisons we have discussed in this forum. No matter where life took either of us we remained true to our friendship. Sven has called for us to consider our mission statement. Surely an exit strategy must contain pastoral care and continued friendships; both without intolerance, judgment, or expectation and both with acceptance, forgiveness and fellowship.

Even in the last year of his life, struggling with cancer, Dave visited and kept up correspondence as regular as ever. When my last email wasn’t answered I knew the worst had come but his star will always shine brightly in my heart. How I wish I could say the same for those who are in the faith, who expect so much from others, who can so easily stand behind a pulpit, who can so easily say goodbye.

Deborah Taube
USA East

Monday, January 26, 2009


My parents did everything they could to shield us from the worries of the Congo in order to make a normal, American life, in Africa, for their two girls. Angela, my younger sister, and I attended TASOK – The American School of Kinshasa – where the teachers were from the U.S. and the students were children of ambassadors or missionaries. The students were not assigned to the typical U.S. elementary, junior high, or high school, but were assigned to pods. Each pod was comprised of children around the same age. What was especially ‘cool’ about the school was that students all studied at their own paces. This created a positive environment for all the students because one wouldn’t feel like a failure if he/she fell behind fellow students. Only the teachers were aware of one’s level of learning as they monitored the students’ progression. As an American school, we celebrated all of the holidays just as if we were home in the States, so we enjoyed dressing up and actively participating in these special events.

As any normal family, we had a variety of pets including a three-legged turtle, two African gray parrots, a goat, two guinea pigs, several kittens, a beautiful blue bird, and my favorite – Chee Chee the monkey.
To make sure Chee Chee was safe for us to play with, he had to have all of the required inoculations. He would awaken us early in the morning with his monkey sounds and didn’t understand why no one else was up! He loved bananas and especially peanuts before they were baked. He loved to climb tall palm trees and pelt us with palm nuts when we walked around down below!

We didn’t have the typical American vacations to Disney World, but we had favorite places we enjoying visiting. The Congolese schools didn’t finish until Saturdays at noon, so Sunday afternoons were when we as a family went on excursions. President Mobutu had built a beautiful palace and ceremonial meeting place for heads of state. A zoo was located at the palace and we would drive up on a Sunday afternoons to walk around the beautiful gardens. It was the first and only place we had ever seen an Okapi – a natural mixture of zebra and giraffe. We also planned monthly trips to Nsele, which was the other presidential retreat further up the Congo River. It had an Olympic-sized pool and was built in the Chinese style of architecture and design. During the dry season (July, August and part of September), we visited the Congo River Rapids. Because there was no rain during this season, the river would recede and create a small area of beach. Just as if we were in Florida, we put up the umbrella and covered up with Coppertone! Of course, we did not get into the water because it was still too dangerous.

I know that my parents felt guilty keeping us children so far away from our grandparents. However, we heard their voices and they ours as we exchanged audio tapes on a regular basis.

I remember always spending time with both sets of grandparents when we were home on furloughs, but Mom always kept current pictures of them at home so that we would always remember who they were and what they looked like. The many boxes they sent to our family were like special gifts from heaven - it was sometimes difficult for us to afford even the simple things from the local markets. I discovered later that over the course of an entire year, my dad’s parents mailed single branches of an artificial tree so that by the following Christmas, we had an actual Christmas tree rather than a tree made of palm tree leaves!

Birthday celebrations with Grandma Ruth; on Homeland Furlough.

Our family worshiped at The Salvation Army. We attended a traditional Congolese Salvation Army Corps (church) where Salvationists (members) walked for many miles to attend the worship services. It was called the Salle Centrale (Central Corps) and was in a large building that could seat several thousand people. I didn’t understand much of what was being said, but I knew, even as a child, that the Holy Spirit was working in the lives of many. The congregation’s enthusiasm and dedication were infectious - there is nothing that compares to that special dynamic. They were there to worship God and they did so through singing, dancing, playing tambourines, and raising their hands to the Lord as they moved to the music. To this day, I prefer hearing the voices of African singing voices over any other in the world.

Melanie Collins-Owens
Former Officer
USA South


She had been invited to participate at a youth rally. She was in front of the crowd sharing her testimony of what God was doing in her life when he noticed her. It was love at first sight and he knew that he was going to marry this beautiful woman – he just had to convince her of it first!

My parents, Lt. Colonel William and Evangeline (Lovegrove) Collins, were both called by God to become officers (ministers) and missionaries and to serve as such within The Salvation Army. After they finished seminary and married, they were told by their superiors that it would be at least five years before their dream to serve as missionaries would come true. So, during the interim waiting period they proceeded to build their family. Well, it turned out that sixteen months later and with me, a mere three-month old baby in tow, they were on their way to “darkest Africa”, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was October 1964.

Now, there are enough worries in a “normal” environment for newly-married parents, but imagine what was going through their minds as the first American Salvation Army officers to serve there! They arrived in a country where everything was foreign to them - culture, language, social customs, and even worship practices.Over the course of the ten years we spent in both Kasangulu and Kinshasa, the customs and practices would in large part become mine; it would become my routine, my discipline; my life – my home was Africa.

In Kasangulu, my parents were responsible for The William Booth Institute which boarded over 400 boys, the Corps (church) and the Elementary School for 1,000 students. Little did they realize at first that not only would they be the Principals and Directors of this school, but also “mother” and “father” to all of these boys. Their roles included just about anything – even ambulance driver! Often, in the balmy evenings while waiting for the cooling breezes, the boys would share with them all the details of their young lives as Africans. After spending three years in Kasangulu, our family was home on furlough in the USA. During this time, President Mobutu organized a ‘coup d’etat’ and deposed the President. Mobutu changed the name of the country from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to ‘Zaïre’ – a French corruption of “Nzadi” – the old name of the Congo River. Mobutu would still be in power over 30 years later, but the unrest never stopped.

When it was safe for our family to return, we arrived at our new home in Kinshasa where my parents became the Principals of The Salvation Army High School. This school was a microcosm of the United Nations. As a fully accredited high school, 95% of the teachers were assigned by UNESCO. The faculty consisted of over thirty European and African teachers and others from all over the world – including Egypt, Haiti, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, the U.S. and the U.K. These teachers were not there to earn a paycheck – they were there because they deeply cared about the future of Zaïre. Dad quickly learned, however, that if a teacher failed to report to a class, he became the substitute teacher that day!

There is much Salvation Army officer parents don’t share with their children, for a number of reasons. Some of the information is confidential; some can be controversial and easily misunderstood by a young impressionable mind; and some so troubling to the family’s safety and future that it could easily be the cause of unnecessary fear and trauma. It wasn’t until I read my dad’s autobiography many years after re-settling in the States that I was made aware of all of the difficulties my parents faced during their ten years in the Congo. I didn’t know that the Congolese children were not allowed to play with me because if I had become injured, their parents believed bad things would happen to their families. I didn’t know that the Congolese greatly disliked the Europeans– especially the Belgians – but greatly respected Americans. I didn’t know that the civil unrest would affect our family being able to return home on furloughs. All I knew was that in my mind, my younger sister and I were living an ordinary, normal life. The Congo was our home.

Melanie Collins-Owens
Former Officer
USA South

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I recall, whilst training for Salvation Army ministry at the International Training College, London during the early 1970's, visiting with a group of other cadets, a worker-priest. (def: A priest, especially in France, who spends time in secular employment for missionary purposes.) At that time, I was too conformist to appreciate his radical viewpoints and what to me, was his scathing attack upon some of the politics and shifted policies of the 'Army'. I left not liking the man and feeling that he was subversive, arrogant and frankly, off-track. How differently the years and circumstances enable one to view a previous experience in a different light. As I reflect upon that distant memory, I find myself asking the question, who actually was subversive, arrogant and frankly, off -track, Me?

I can't remember much about him, except that he was a baker as well as an Anglican priest. (What a lovely thought, he who baked the bread also breaks it and shares it in the Eucharist.) However, as I left his flat above the bakers shop and returned to the College, I could not help but think, how sad that he feels he needs to hold on to the security of a job and not fully enter into real ministry.

Boy, was I arrogant and opinionated in those days!

How much I have changed in my thinking across these three and half decades! For me, the concept of tent-maker ministry now makes so much theological sense. Today, as I try to picture the scene of that meeting, I feel a sense of shared identity, even a deep respect for what God was trying to teach me.

These thoughts were resurrected when I came across a posting on the website of St Jame's Piccadilly by Hugh Vallentine - a worker priest ordained in 1989. The full script can be found at http://www.st-james-piccadilly.org/workerpriests.html.

In this article he explores something of the background of the worker-priest, and examines the current climate by highlighting the Obstacles and Possibilities of this type of ministry. I found these to be both insightful and challenging. Hugh writes.

The obstacles

* Like all institutions, the church is concerned with control and survival. These are often buried motives - subconscious - so this ought not be read as any criticism of individuals or a comment on their considered actions

* Organisations tend to be self-replicating. Candidates for non-stipendiary ministry in England tend to be like those doing the selecting; safe, middle-class and mainly conformist

* We lack models of ordained men and women who manage effectively to discharge their duties as priests and who operate in a range of posts, jobs, roles and professions and who see these as being the places they pray, witness and celebrate the link between the transcendent and immanent.

* The living out of the priest’s office seems often to drift from the ontological and inspirational to the functional and tired. Of course there are exceptions, but many parish clergy drift towards becoming museum attendants: preserving the artefacts, discouraging innovation and preferring well behaved visitors who admire the exhibits.

The possibilities

* We never know when a new, vibrant wind will blow through our tired lives and structures; so there is always room for a realistic hope and confidence in humankind and in God

* There may emerge one or more bishops and others with a sense of what is possible in this sphere, and start a ball rolling

* When we get tired of postmodernism and start again digging around in the muck and muddle of human possibility, the mystery of God and the promises of the Gospel, we may see developments we cannot now dream of.

Hugh Valentine

From what I’ve been reading on this FSAOF blog of late, it would appear that Hugh could be describing the experience of many formers. The ideas of control, obscure motives, self-replicating conformity, lack of, or stifling of spirit lead ministry modelling ending up for so many in the enforced curatorship of an excusive exhibiting of a bygone era.

In the years following my resignation as an officer, but still as a soldier, there emerged a growing dissatisfaction that seems to say to me, “surely, there must be more to church than this!” It was at this point that the possibilities become apparent.

Hugh speaks of possibilities and I can witness to the breeze of unfolding revelations and a resurfacing confidence in God and humankind in my life. Of discovering a sensible and sensitive Church leadership, that welcomed and bandaged my hurts without asking too many questions. Of a theological journey that discovered a reality amongst the jumble of my mind and cleared my view to see that there is indeed much, much more.

In a recent email communication with Hugh, we compared notes about our respective journeys. He commented that Tentmaker ministry could be a difficult but so rewarding furrow to plough. I wonder how other formers, having found new campsites, have managed to re-pitch their tent?

By the way, if there are any formers out here who can recall the name of the ‘baker-priest, I would sure like to hear from them.

Paul Collings (Rev.)

Whosoever Will

How proud am I to be an American today?

It’s inexplicable. You would have had to be hiding under a rock to not know that yesterday (Tuesday, January 20, 20009) was an incredible day in the States. Whether you are for or against President Obama and his administration it’s a new day for all of us, here in the States and across the globe as well.

As much as people are focusing on Obama being the first African American president, and make no mistake about it, that is an historical moment, I am choosing to focus on what lies behind the color of his skin. I see a man who appears to love his God, his family, and his country including its position in world affairs. I see a man who appears to be brilliant, humble, and cautious; a man who can negotiate, lead and inspire, a man who appears able to think outside the box.

I am proud that President Obama selected not only Rick Warren but also Joseph Lowery to pray at his inauguration, two persons of the cloth with considerably differing opinions on topics of controversy.

I am proud that he selected not only the Queen of Soul herself but also those who can deliver the classics, both of which lift our hearts and souls to heaven in diverse ways. And the President's Own U.S. Marine Band playing arrangements and compositions penned by a U.S. Salvationist.

I am proud that he and Michelle visited and danced at EVERY ball; that he spoke to each crowd in a manner befitting their reason for being there. It was very 'whosoever will may come'.

Our new President has enormous tasks ahead of him. Too many people will be expecting him to fix everything quickly and perfectly; especially those who were the opposition, those who live in fear instead of hope.

For me, I choose hope. I choose hope instead of fear. I choose it every day. Hope for myself. Hope for my family and friends. Hope for my country and hope for my planet. Hope for my future as well as yours.

Be patient. Give President Obama time. Give him time to live out his vision of inclusion. Be part of his inclusion. For as with our walk with Jesus, I believe that slow and steady wins the day. Pray for our new President. He needs it now more than ever. I’ll be praying with you.

Deborah Taube
USA East

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Remember when gay meant happy, happy, joy, joy? Now happy means happy, joy means joy, and gay mostly means homosexual. Good or bad, gay is here to stay. Since it has been with us from the earliest of time and will be with us until the end we need to figure out how it affects us individually and collectively, as a culture, a country, a community.

One thing I learned at SFOT was to study and interpret the Bible in multiple contexts. Some of those contexts I use today are historical, literal, figurative, cultural, anthropological, symbolic, scientific, etc. Interpretation is personal. If it wasn’t we would still have only one church. But Luther, Wesley, Booth, and others interpreted scripture different from those who went before and the church changed. Then there is Mormonism, Scientology, etc. Argue for or against but they have all, in addition to their separate texts, interpreted and reinterpreted scripture to their advantage as well. I’m not going to quote all the scriptures pro and con. You are already able to substantiate what you believe yourself. But I would suggest perhaps at least trying to see why the other side believes as it does. Open yourself up to possibility.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of how different interpretation has influenced the church.

Before Booth few, if any, churches recognized women as preacher/teacher/pastor. William was a breakthrough kind of guy but many churches today still do not recognize women in those capacities including the one I (albeit, infrequently) attend. Since there are women in every walk of life it would only seem logical (especially with cultural interpretation) there would be women in pastorates etc. The world has changed. The place of women in the world has changed. Should we hold to the mores of centuries and decades past because that is the way it was? I think not but there will be no priests or bishops of the feminine persuasion in this diocese. I go because I love the music, the service style and, in spite of their doctrinal beliefs, the pastor and his wife. Worship is where and how you make it, women in authority or not.

Do I agree? Not at all. But both sides have found what they believe to be scriptural support for their positions. Is one wrong and one right? How can there be such a diversity of opinion?

Part One

Deborah Taube
USA East

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in The Salvation Army

Years ago, Robert Fulghum shocked the publishing world with the success of his bestselling book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. For the most part, Fulghum is right; many lessons learned in kindergarten, such as taking turns and looking both ways before crossing the street, provide the minimum daily requirements for successful living, even for adults.

However, I can’t narrow things down as much as Fulghum did. I owe a lot to kindergarten, that’s true. I owe much to Sunday school as well. But many of the most important things I know today, I learned from The Salvation Army, both as a soldier and as an officer. Things that were not taught to me in kindergarten. Important things. Things I probably could have learned somewhere else, but which I’m convinced were learned sooner and better because of my lifetime association with The Salvation Army. I’ll share the ten most important.

1. Life isn’t fair. I’ve known countless good people who have endured tragedy, good parents whose children have gone astray, and hard workers who struggle to make a living. I’ve learned that “righteous men [often] get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men [often] get what the righteous deserve” (Eccl. 8:14b, NIV).

2. There are basically two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. Anyone who has rung a bell at a Christmas kettle has seen ample demonstration of this fact, and has also learned an important corollary: the givers are a whole lot happier.

3. Bigotry hurts the hater more than the hated. I once saw a hungry man refuse a plate of hot food in a Salvation Army feeding program because it was being served by a man of a different color—a striking illustration of how bigotry, in all its forms, deprives the hater more than the hated.

4. The really important things in life--you don’t have to be old to find out what they are, but it sure seems to help. I’ve visited thousands of nursing home and hospital patients through the Army’s League of Mercy, and I’ve often been amazed at the neglected wisdom that abounds in such places. Those experiences have taught me to listen to old people. Not just to their words, but to their perspective.

5. Very often the only difference between rich people and poor people is that the rich have money. I remember two women who worked side by side as volunteers in a Christmas toy shop, laughing together and talking about their children. They seemed to share so much in common that a stranger might have assumed they were sisters. Only later did I learn that one was a wealthy women’s auxiliary member, and the other was a frequent beneficiary of Army programs for the poor.

6. I am not alone. I had been a Salvation Army officer and pastor less than two weeks when the corps basement flooded. I was trying to single-handedly correct the problem when Mike, an advisory board member, happened to drop by. "Why didn't you call somebody?" he asked. "You're not alone here, you know." Within minutes, I was surrounded by board members and soldiers who rolled up their sleeves and got the job done. A monumental tragedy was transformed into a minor problem with the help of others.

7. Helping others is fun. A vivid memory of my youth is helping my father load a truck with canned goods and emergency supplies for victims of the 1974 tornado that struck parts of Ohio. It was hot, hard work, but it was fun, too, to know that my work would benefit hundreds of people.

8. Small acts can produce huge results. My grandparents once faced Christmas with no food and no gifts. But a Salvation Army officer appeared on the doorstep Christmas Eve with an armload of food and a few small toys for the children. Since that small act of kindness, four generations of my family have served in The Salvation Army.

9. Life is unspeakably precious. As a young Salvation Army officer I stood in the hospital room of two good friends, a married couple whose child had been stillborn less than an hour before. The pain in the room seemed tangible, for they had lost someone who was unspeakably precious. A couple years later, I rejoiced with that same couple at the birth of a son. The joy in the room seemed tangible, for they had gained someone who was unspeakably precious.

10. There’s no substitute for faith in God. None. I wouldn’t even waste my time looking for one.
Bob Hostetler
USA East

Bob Hostetler’s books include the award-winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (co-authored with Josh McDowell) and American Idols (The Worship of the American Dream). He lives in Hamilton, Ohio, with his wife, Robin. They have two grown children.


It's a cold and sunny day, only fresh snow is missing for this to be a perfect winter day in these northern Scandinavian climes. Above me is a bright blue sky with small white clouds (the colours of the flag of Finland). It's clear to me; the very hand of God created and has given this beautiful day just to me. There have been occasions when I have not thought about God's handwriting, times that have not been so pleasant for me.

Just a few days have passed of this year as I write this. I'm asking myself how I'm going to fill all the pages of the book '2009' which is laid out in front of me. Deep down I do know I want to be ready to serve my God, to do whatever He wants of me. Or am I? If this year brings me more illnesses, debilitating, permanent ones, will I accept them without complaint? Can I use them to His glory, for the sake of the Kingdom?

“I lift my eyes upon the hills, where my help comes”, These words opened up as I was having my morning session with my God, I cried to Him as did the Psalmist David for Divine help to face everything I may meet this year.

I dare to pray “ Do anything you want with me as long as I can be Yours`” Yes, I said I dare.. There hasve been occasions God has answered the way I didn't expect.

Almost thirty years back I was expecting my first child. Every mother knows the sense of love a mother experiences during pregenancy. In a prayer I promised this child to God. Only 30 hours following delivery God took him to heaven. An answered prayer, but certainly not the way I would have chosen.

A few years passed and my life was in a great mess, financially and I was also in very poor health. I prayed; “Do whatever you want,” and He answered my prayer, He really did! I had thought myself to be a good Christian who had a direct contact with God. But very soon I realized how I was a sinner, a sinner who needed salvation. God started to break me into bits and pieces, and I literally cried and wept for pardon for my sins. Slowly He started to build a new structure of my life; I became a new creature. Nothing around me changed but I did, and with new eyes I was able to face the the difficulties I lived within.

Just two examples How God has taken literally my prayers and has answered, but I hadn't expect the answer to be what it turned out to be.

Now I have dared to pray again “may your will be done in my life!” I know His loving hand is above me whatever the answer might be.

If I'm asked I'd like to be a bright winter day spreading out joy and happiness. It might be I must walk in the dark valleys. Who, but God knows. “Do whatever You want with me”, I dare to pray again, well knowing it's dangerous to pray as I might just get what I ask for!

My sessional dedication song said:” My task to follow Thine to show each unknown step now hid from sight. In trust I take the unknown road, a road illumined with thy light.”

Marja-Terttu Talvisalmi

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Not all readers or contributors to this blog site have access to the private FSAOF site on FaceBook where many sensitive issues are shared. Consequently I thought it helpful to share some comments focusing on losses within our ranks. The respondents have not been in contact with each other, and have not been privy to the comments of the other(s).

It’s also worth nothing that The SA operates in 115 countries and the growth in SA services and the increase/decrease in the number of officers varies greatly.


Hi, Sven, first of all, many thanks for your Former Officers Website. It is a real blessing to me, and to many others I am sure.

I was just wondering about the numbers involved here. I was a member of Messengers of Joy, 86-88, and from what I can gather, around 75% of that fine session are no longer officers. From what I can see, that is not unusual, and it does seem to me to be an astonishing figure.

Do you have any idea how this compares with the "drop-out" rate of other denominations? I have been a Methodist minister for many years now, but when a Methodist minister leaves the ministry, it's an "event" - the person involved is usually present when it is announced at Synod, and we would normally pray with him and send him on his way with our blessing.

Quite a contrast with most people's memory of our farewell to officership!


Hi, Sven;

I would just like to expand my question slightly.

Within UK Methodism, I note that last year there were TEN ministers who "ceased to be in full connexion" (that's Methodist parlance for "leaving the Methodist ministry") across the country. Their names are listed in our "Minutes of Conference", and I have no doubt that each situation as it arose will have been brought to the respective Ministerial Synod, for information and for prayer.

The contrast with when we left the Army is stark. As soon as we spoke to our DC, we immediately became "persona non grata", and have had minimal contact since then, other than a letter from personnel some months later containing our severance money.

As I said, our session of just over seventy cadets trained at the ITC in the mid-eighties, and there are very few (perhaps twenty or less) still in officership. The SA leadership must know the precise numbers and stats, but these remain a closely guarded secret. I did learn from Methodist sources that two years after I made the transition, the church received 26 applications from serving UK officers to join me in the Methodist ministry. Such was the concern at Methodist HQ that they sent a deputation to the SA to discuss the situation, but they received short shrift from the Army.

Anyway, I retain a great love for the Army, and I am concerned that the large exodus of officers from the ranks seems to be continuing. I would guess that the Army's rate of loss is significantly higher than other denominations, certainly higher than Methodism, and I do wonder about the underlying causes.

Just in closing, I was forty years old when I made the switch. Had I stayed a few years longer, my options would have decreased considerably. To be honest, I am glad that I got out when I did. What percentage of serving officers, I wonder, remain in the ranks simply because they have no exit strategy? The same question could be posed of other churches, of course, but this is an Army site, and the Army remains close to my heart.



At the moment, it’s one of those times when a lot of little things are going wrong around the house – the kind of things that don’t seem to matter when they’re working, but become major when they’re not, especially when so many arise at the same time. I’m sure we’ve all had times like that. (Do you remember when you just had to ring the appropriate person in your part of the SA, and they would sort it out, or at least help you, AND pay for it?!)
Anyway, a recent comment on the latest article got me thinking, and while I was waiting in for the washing-machine engineer, not wanting to get stuck into anything too long or complicated, I worked out the statistics. for our Session, Proclaimers of Salvation 1978-80, at the ITC, for active, retired, PTG and resigned. (To follow)

We were aged 18 to 45-ish at Commissioning, so the potential numbers of years of Officership from then varied greatly within the Session.

We’ve always scanned the list in Salvationist when the changes are announced, and tried to keep track of everyone, though with overseas Officers, and female Officers marrying, it can be quite difficult. Also, not all HQ Appointments are included, so you can easily lose track of people, and there are some for whom no member of the Session knows their whereabouts, or what happened to them. After our 20-year Reunion, I copied the Appointments page of our Commissioning Programme, and made it into a prayer list. I added spouses’ names where known, and any children/parents I know about; it’s also expanding now to include children of the Session’s “children” – scary thought as it shows how old we’re all getting. (The youngest child from that Programme is now about 30!) I try to remember a few in my prayers each day. For those where I know what their Appointment is, and/or something of their circumstances, I can pray more specifically, but for those of whom I know nothing, I can name them in prayer before the Lord, who knows their circumstances and needs. Maybe that’s an idea that some others of our Fellowship might like to try ?

Margaret Day
Former UKT


9 Cadets left during the Session, ranging from 2 or 3 months in, to not returning from Out-Training.

Personal Email.

Of the 96 commissioned,

Active 47 (49%) (At least 1 is working beyond retirement age, because spouse is still working)

Retired 12 (13%) (At least 6 I can think of, without thinking too hard about it, due to retire over the next 1 to 3 years.)

PTG 4 (4%) (One Former, died of illness, early 20’s, 2 Actives died of illness, 1 near retirement age & 1 in his 40’s; 1 aged 50, murdered on Active service)

Resigned 33 (34%)

(There are roundings in the percentages, as none were whole numbers.)

So maybe we buck the trend, with about 1/3, the minority, having resigned?


Saturday, January 3, 2009


"Your days at the most cannot be very long, so use them to the best of your ability for the glory of God and the benefit of your generation" William Booth, Salvation Army Founder

One of the many questions that have gone round and round in my head since my resignation in May 1987 is why. Why did I come to a place where I could no longer continue with my ministry following the calling I believe that God had placed on my life? Was it the Army’s fault or was it mine? At the time of my resignation I firmly believed that the Army was at fault, but now with maturity on my side and a lot of hindsight I believe it was a bit of both. I was a very young, only in my 20’s and also very immature for my age.

Looking back I feel that I should never have been given the responsibility that was on my shoulders. I remember on a number of occasions seeking help from DHQ but little was available. In the end I could not take the pressure anymore and consequently resigned. I was hurt, angry and disillusioned, but I remember feeling that I had let God down and turned my back on His calling.

Although I joined a local charismatic church, I never really felt a 100% happy, I always felt that there was a big something missing in my life. I had always lived and breathed the army being a fourth generation Salvationist; I had never known any different. 'Church' in many ways seemed so alien to me. Don’t get me wrong, the people were very kind and caring towards us as a family, but something never felt quite right it was like there was a big chunk of me that no longer existed; part of me had died.

In 2001 I decided that I needed to explore this further and started to work through some of my issues with the help of a counsellor. Through the next 5 years I was on a journey of discovery. The journey took me places I never imagined I would go again. One of these being to visit one of my session mates at the Training College at Denmark Hill. She was stationed there at the time and contacted me out of the blue to invite me after meeting up with my sister, who is still an active officer, at officer’s councils.

It seemed very strange to go back to the college and something that I never thought I would do when I resigned. It was good to talk and allow some of my walls of hurt and anger to start to crumble.

A short while after visiting the college I had contact with the army again through my Mother-in-Law (Freda) who was an adherent. Freda asked us to take her along to the Army, as she could no longer get there on her own due to mobility problems. Going back to the army awakened something in me that I had buried many years earlier. It felt good to go and we visited occasionally with Freda over the next few months. The corps had a change in officers during this time and the new officer made us feel so welcome. I began to feel a sense of connection with her and was able to begin to unpack some of my hurt and anger towards the Army.

Although I was still part to the other Church I was aware that something was beginning to shift in me and I really enjoyed taking Freda to the Army. It was like there was a battle going on inside of me as to whether I should return to the Army or not. It seemed really strange that at no time was there any pressure put on me to return to the Army apart from what God was doing in me, but the charismatic church where I had been an active member felt really threatened by this. Over many months and many conversations I was able to come to terms with my officer status resignation for the first time and to move out of the guilty place I had put myself in for many years.

One Saturday evening in late 2006 I found myself at the Divisional Welcome Meeting for new Officers. I’m not really sure why I went but just knew I had to be there. As the meeting unfolded I became more and more convicted by God that I needed to leave the other Church I was in and return to the Army. When I got home that night my husband asked me what had happened to me as my face was glowing; he likened it to when Moses went up the mountain and had an encounter with God. I phoned the corps officer and told her what had happened, and she told me that she too had seen what had happened to me in the meeting and she “believed that I had heard from God”. In May 2007 I was enrolled as a soldier at the corps that I had resigned from 20 years earlier.

During my 20 years away many times in prayer I cried out to God trying to understand why, and often found the words of John Gowans song so helpful in trying to express what I was feeling:

Knowing my failings, knowing my fears,
Seeing my sorrow, drying my tears,

Jesus recall me, me re-ordain
You know I love you, use me again.
But what of the future?

I think I will let John Gowans have the last word on that one as well

For the far future I cannot see
Promise your presence travel with me
Sunshine or shadow I cannot tell
You know I love you all will be well.

Heather Allard
active soldier, Woodford Corps

Friday, January 2, 2009


I love the song ‘Blessed be Your Name’, especially when I sing these wordsEvery blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise.
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say:
Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
The words speak of the difficulties we face in life, when we suffer and go through times of testing yet, despite it all, we can still sing ‘how blessed is the Name of the Lord’. It reminds us of the desert and wilderness places where we often find ourselves wandering, but there in the midst of it all is Jesus. In Jesus we have all we need, the land is plentiful, if we would ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’.

A couple of months ago I visited a couple, Karl and Joyce (names changed), they had been referred to the Hospice, where I am now serving in my fourth year as Chaplain, for spiritual support. As we shared together it was very evident that Joyce had a deep hunger for her Lord and Saviour. Joyce had a burning desire and obvious urgency to worship God in church. As I listened to her needs and she spoke of her life, it turned out that her roots and grounding in the faith had come through The Salvation Army. I invited Joyce to attend worship on Sunday with me at The Salvation Army or alternatively, I would go with her to another church, one of her choice. Joyce immediately accepted my invitation and said that Karl would bring her but may not stay himself. Karl had not been part of our conversation but had been quietly preparing a meal in the kitchen. Karl had chatted briefly with us, but said that it was Joyce who was in need of my support. I prayed with Joyce before I left and she said how she felt an overwhelming sense of peace.

Sunday came and I didn’t know if Joyce would feel well enough to visit us, but knowing of her deep desire to worship God in church I knew her determination was strong. As I came onto the platform after praying with our leaders for the day, I saw Karl and Joyce sitting at the back of the hall. I was so thrilled; my heart leaped and praised God! As I welcomed everyone to worship, I extended a sincere welcome to all visitors, and Karl and Joyce: her face was a picture, I will never forget it, she was absolutely glowing and smiling. Our meetings were being led by Majors Ray & Joyce Ebden, as our officer Major Stuart Barker was on furlough. Oh how God used his messengers who He had sent to minister to us. The Spirit moved amongst His people; the message powerful. The words spoken came from Isaiah Chapter 6; bringing cleansing and healing. God moved amongst His people and many came to the Mercy Seat to stand or pray, taking with them a piece of coal as a symbol of healing, peace, symbolic as the answer for whatever reason they had come to forward.

I just praise God for pouring out His blessings into our lives that morning.

Sadly , just a few weeks ago Joyce was promoted to Glory, however, the service included no mention of her faith in God. Her son though, in his tribute to his mother, said ‘God only takes the best’. No prayers were said, it wasn’t a service that I know Joyce would have wanted, it seemed cold and spoke no mention of her faith in God and how He had helped her through her illness. After the service I went with a work colleague to Joyce’s coffin and together we committed Joyce to God’s merciful keeping, I felt this was so very important.

As I look forward to 2009 I am expectant of all the wonderful things God has in store for my life. This year will see many changes! I will move back into my role as a Salvation Army Officer and so I will no longer be a ‘former’ but through God’s grace be ‘active’ once again and live out God’s call upon my life. The second of my four children will move out of home and on to University to study Mathematics and hopes to gain a place at Exeter University. I know that God will be with me through these changes and I trust him for what he wants to do in and through me.

My prayer for you at the beginning of 2009 is that you will ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ and may you experience His peace and blessings in this coming year.

Many blessings

Tracey Oliver
UK Territory