Sunday, January 31, 2010

Your battle is our battle, and the victory His! (part 1)

In General Shaw Clifton's New Year 2010 Pastoral letter he writes, ... “This season of new beginnings allows us to place before the Lord also the hopes we have in our hearts concerning our daily work. Many of you reading this are Salvation Army officers making plans for the spiritual advancement of those you lead and those you serve in Christ's name. I say to you, 'May God bless those plans, those sacred ambitions for the souls of others.'

There are also several hundred ‘former’ officers to whom I’m certain he’d say the very same words, that God will bless our plans as well. Many continue in our consecrated, ordained roles as pastors , teachers and shepherds, while others live out their calling in other areas of service. No matter where our vocation is lived out, and as we faithfully serve in this New Year, we are also mindful of a corporate mission as ‘former’ officers as our plans too continue to be 'sacred ambitions for the souls of others.' However, we have other urgent matters too that the Lord has placed on us, as a spiritual body; the reformation of THE SA Officer retention and resignation process- to thwart the steady departure of well-qualified, committed officers. We are concerned...

The first and key step in formulating a sucessful strategy is acknowledging that reform is necessary. One need only take a cursory look at the alarmingly high percentage of officers resigning from active service each year to recognize both the immediate and long-term negative implications. General Shaw Clifton shared in his, “If Crosses Come”. The Officer, 2009. ‘Each year I receive the global annual statistics for officer resignations and dismissals. Those for the calendar year of 2007 show that fewer colleagues left officership than in 2006. Of approximately 16,500 active officers, 257 or 1.6% left in 2007 (274 or 1.9% in 2006).’

While there may indeed be cause for minimal optimism, the overall statistics relative to resignations are cause for very real concern, and addressing them is tantamount. Assuming the resignations remain at a percentage level of between 1.5 and 2 %, one must also remember that each departing officer often represents a significant number of years of active service; experience and commitment.
The average number of years of service represented in the FSAOF is approximately 10, or a combined 2,700 years (275 members worldwide). Further, at the current rate of departure, this represents a staggering 2,500 experienced and tested officers ‘leaving the work’ every decade.

The official reasons given for resigning were:
Domestics, marital or family: 65 (25.29 %)
Dissatisfaction, for example, appointment/remuneration: 54 (21.01) %
Misconduct: 49 (19.06) %
Unsuited for further service: 25 (9.7 %)
Transfer to another church:16 (6.23 %)
Marriage to non-officer: 15 (5.8 %)
Feeling discouraged: 14 (5.4 %)

Health issues:14 (5.4 %)
Health of spouse: 1 (.4 %)
Doctrinal issues:4 ( 1.55 %)

It's unlikely that anyone knows for certain the exact numbers of those who have resigned, it's surely in the several thousands, and perhaps it's to everyone’s advantage to keep the count private. Nonetheless, there's little doubt that the count exceeds the number of those still in active service. FSAOF members share that typically, fewer than 50% of their session mates remain in active service. And, it must certainly cause constant consternation, concern, and cause for contemplation among SA leaders in many territories. And it must grieve God's heart to see the number of steady resignations; scores who promised a lifetime of loyalty to ‘the cross and the colours’ are departing, many leaving to serve elsewhere. While some loss is inevitable, one must question why there is such a seemingly steady flow. The above list of ‘reasons’ suggest that there is no unique or single common motivating factor, the resignations stem from a multitude of factors.

Those still active tell us they're 'too busy within their own commands' to give attention to additional concerns, no matter the urgency. And for those in a position of leadership the question of officer retention appears to be far removed from the list of daily demands; 'left to the handful at the top'. What then, if anything, can and is being done to thwart the loss of present day and future officer leaders? More specifically, is there a role for the FSAOF to provide in turning the tide?

As a spiritual body nearing 300 members, the FSAOF is very concerned about the army’s future, the organization that trained us for the ministry and in the roles where we serve today. The spiritual body we represent was grounded and formed in response to a ‘call’ each of us heard, accepting our vocation in accordance with Paul’s description in Ephesians 4:11-12 (NIV) ‘It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up’.


Your battle is our battle...

















END PART ONE

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former USA East
Active Soldier, Exeter Temple UKT

New Life Brings Cheer to Salvation Army Emergency Response Team in Haiti


Celina, the first of three babies born so far in the Salvation Army clinic, with her mother, Linda Daumond

FOR more than a week the people of Haiti have been trying to cope with the pain and suffering caused by a devastating earthquake. As often in such circumstances, local Salvation Army personnel were immediately on hand to assist people, despite experiencing agonies, bereavements and losses of their own. The more than 700 Salvation Army workers are now being supported by international team members who have experience of working in disaster relief situations.

The international personnel deployed to the scene are based in the capital, Port-au-Prince, at The Salvation Army compound in St Martin.

Lieut-Colonel Lindsay Rowe (Chief Secretary, Caribbean Territory) says the area The Salvation Army is working in is considered to be one of the most dangerous in Port-au-Prince. For security reasons the press have been warned by local authorities to keep clear but this has meant that The Salvation Army has had little coverage in the international media reports from Haiti.

Captain Jean Laurore Clenat, District Officer for South Haiti, translates as a doctor examines a patient at the clinic in Delmas, Port-au-Prince





The Salvation Army has had a ministry in St Martin for 60 years and the movement is well respected and appreciated. The compound includes administration buildings, worship halls, a school, children’s home, a feeding programme and a medical clinic. Many of the buildings were badly damaged and some rendered completely unusable by the earthquake. Nevertheless, the area is being well used to coordinate the emergency response, food distribution, medical services and general care and support of local people.

The Salvation Army clinic is at full stretch due to the many people in need of medical attention and aftercare. The clinic is on the same compound as the distribution and feeding centre.

Lieut-Colonel Rowe says: 'It is amazing how well things were organised in such a short time. Immediately after the earthquake the clinic began functioning as a triage station, with victims showing up immediately for treatment. A medical team from the USA was able to set up two surgical rooms for major injuries. There are eight doctors working at the clinic and the team treated more than 200 patients on Monday (18 January) and approximately 300 patients on Tuesday. Unfortunately they are running short on supplies.'

In the midst of all the chaos and confusion of a disaster area, the clinic staff are rejoicing in the birth of three babies this week. Lieut-Colonel Mike Caffull, The Salvation Army's International Emergency Services Coordinator from International Headquarters, London, is on site assisting with the organisation of the Salvation Army response.'In a place where there has been so much death and pain,' he says, 'it is wonderful to see the evidence of new life.'


THE SALVATION ARMY, HAITI UPDATES

Saturday, January 30, 2010

PASTORAL LETTER SEVENTEEN

BEGINNINGS

Dear Fellow Salvationists,

Through this first Pastoral Letter of 2010 I greet you warmly in the sacred name of Jesus. In these opening weeks of the New Year I lift you up to God in prayer. May the Divine Presence be very real to each one of you at this time of new beginnings. May you sense the Lord's nearness day by day, moment by moment.

The theme of this 17th Pastoral Letter is 'Beginnings'.

Another year is a gift from God to each of us. The very newness of it causes us to pause and take stock of our lives. It is good to do this from time to time.

We can, first of all, cast a backward glance over our shoulders to review the year that has just closed. Can you see the gracious hand of the Lord in it: in the things that have happened in your life, and in the events impacting the lives of your loved ones and friends? It is a time to pause and give thanks to Almighty God for his promised presence with us through all the days of 2009. He has been there in the good and in the bad times. He has seen us through. He has been faithful.

Next we look ahead. It is a very great mercy that the future is veiled. This prompts our hearts to reach out still further to God as consciously we put our trust in him for the unknown days ahead. A time of new beginnings is a time also for new trust.

Let us find a quiet moment in which to tell the Lord that we do indeed love and trust him. It is a very great help to our souls to do this deliberately, with full intentionality. This quiet moment of rededication will become perhaps a source of great strength, of great grace, in the days ahead. Let it be a renewing of your love for God, a renewing of your devotion, a renewing of your willingness to serve him and to be seen and known by all as his disciple.

Then having placed our lives afresh before him in this manner, we can place our loved ones again into his loving care and protection.

For example, how good it is to pray for one's spouse, to speak aloud the name of a husband or a wife in prayer. The best marriages, marriages that endure, are built on such foundations. How helpful it is when a husband and wife can sit quietly together to pray aloud for each other and for the whole family circle. It is especially important to do this at a time of new beginnings and before the gentle, calm blessedness of Christmas has faded.

How good it is also to pray for one's children, naming them aloud before the Throne of Grace. God hears these prayers. They are never wasted. God's ear is inclined toward those who seek his guidance and protection for their children. Christian parents often make such prayers, as do Christian grandparents and Christian aunts and uncles. I say again: these prayers are never wasted.

This season of new beginnings allows us to place before the Lord also the hopes we have in our hearts concerning our daily work. Many of you reading this are Salvation Army officers making plans for the spiritual advancement of those you lead and those you serve in Christ's name. I say to you, 'May God bless those plans, those sacred ambitions for the souls of others.'

Many of you are local officers in the Army, holding sacred hopes that 2010 will see your service more fruitful for God than ever before. I join you in that good hope and I share the Spirit-prompted ambitions for your Kingdom-work.

I know also that many of you have influence over our young people in the Army. God bless you for that! I pray that you will be guided in all things by the Holy Spirit and that you will be given wisdom to lead many a young person into a new beginning with God.

Finally, I request that you continue to pray for me as we enter 2010. I need your prayers. Please pray for wisdom from God to be my portion, and also for physical strength to be granted day by day.

Commissioner Helen Clifton joins me in greeting you as we commend you each one to the matchless love of the Saviour.

God be with you.

Yours in Christ

Shaw Clifton
General


Thursday, January 28, 2010

We Sit, Knit and Pray...

It’s midnight and beyond, yet I can’t tear myself away from the television as the haunting images from Haiti flicker across the screen. I’ve seen the same ten-year-old girl pulled from the rubble every hour, yet still I sit and watch, horrified and heartbroken. It’s too much, yet I can’t turn it off.

Anderson Cooper, the intrepid CNN reporter of disaster, spoke of his work in Haiti: "The thing that's difficult about this is that the camera lens is too small to capture what is really happening here. It's too small to capture the scale, the size, the horror of what's happening here. It's a very tiny little camera lens, and no matter where you point it something is happening."
The magnitude is beyond belief, yet over time it is the stories, one by one, that touch and break our hearts. The hotel owner, pulled from the rubble days after the quake hit. The college kids on a mission trip, a dozen now safe while four are still missing. The head of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, killed by the quake’s destruction. The birth of a new baby surrounded by the rubble of a decimated orphanage. Stories of heroism and sacrifice, of hope in the midst of horror.

In searching the web, I ran across a video entitled, “Has the World Failed Haiti?” Set amidst reports of search and rescue teams en route from the UK, Taiwan and Venezuela, I had to shake my head and wonder what more “the world” could be doing. Haiti’s airport has one runway, the docks have been badly damaged, and the logistics of getting help to this Caribbean island are mind-boggling. Yet the transport planes are landing hour after hour, and people from around the world are opening their hearts and their wallets to the people of Haiti.

These relief workers are coming to an impoverished country with an infrastructure that was crumbling long before the earthquake. I know some of the people working within The Salvation Army who are on the ground now in Haiti, and they are only a handful of thousands of people who have come, often at their own expense and safety, to help a people they have never met. While it is easy to criticize what appears to be a slow response in the midst of so much suffering, I am staggered by the overwhelming response given the extreme barriers to providing aid. Let’s be realistic here – preparation for disaster relief work can only go so far – natural disasters don’t get on the calendar or map a year in advance.

Perhaps that’s what so amazing about what happens in the face of a disaster. Katrina. Hurricane Andrew. The Boxing Day Tsunami. 9-11. A house fire down the block. In each instance, strangers immediately come to the aid of their brothers and sisters around the world and across the street, doing whatever they can to respond with compassion.

I recently watched the film Lars and the Real Girl with a group of friends. As Bianca is dying, women from the church come to the home and are in the living room, knitting. Sally tells Lars, “W came over to sit.” Hazel adds, “That’s what people do when tragedy strikes.” Then Sally again: “They come over, and sit. That’s what people do. They sit.”

While some are able to travel to Haiti to distribute food and water or to provide medical care as my doctor friend Cindy-Lou is doing, most of us are unable to do that. Some may be able to open their homes to Haitian orphans or refugees, but most of us are unable to do that. We can give money to support the relief efforts, and many of us will do that. But beyond that, we can sit with the people of Haiti. We watch CNN for hours. We knit and pray. We weep for the people of Haiti. We allow the images of suffering and hope to be seared into our memories. Because that’s what people do when tragedy strikes.






Major JoAnn Shade ministers with her husband Larry as the corps officers and Directors of the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. She received a B.A. in sociology from S.U.N.Y. at Binghamton, a M.A. in Pastoral Counseling, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Ashland Theological Seminary in June, 2006. She is a prolific writer, lecturer, and busy counselor and has been a valued contributor to this blog since its inception.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Had A Dream!

Last night I dreamt that Jesus changed his plans with another “coming” before the final one, in order to give us second chance at getting it right. The denomination he chose to identify with was a bit obscured in the dream, but it was definitely hierarchical in form with clearly defined ecclesiastically ordained levels of authority, identified by rank and position.

He started at the bottom, following protocol, purposefully working within the system, conforming where necessary and inching up through the layered chain of command, obtaining each coveted title along the way until at long last, in his waning days (3 years before retirement, no extensions), the crowning moment came: “Head Honcho,” be it Pope, General, Archbishop, General Superintendent, Whatever?

Upon reaching that long sought after, hard fought for position, He used this authority to begin leveling the playing field, thereby flattening the hierarchy (Priesthood of believers, et al), thus bringing a semblance of equality and oneness to the Body. His work completed, and while ascending the second time, he said, “You won’t know the time of my next coming, that’s the Father’s business. Be my witnesses in Honolulu, all over America, even to the ends of the world.” In that Spirit the Church began to multiply and prosper, comparably to the period following his first ascension.

Those who followed, several Head Honchos later, began to carefully restructure the hierarchy as it had once been. With ordination, increasing levels, titles and infrastructure there came, also comparably, an ever-decreasing number in followers.

At this point I woke up drenched in sweat, not a dream, a veritable nightmare! In those waking moments of reality, the thought came to me, Were he here, would Jesus even entertain the thought of ordination or taking on a title: General Jesus or Pope Jesus or Archbishop Jesus?
Kind of a scary thought, isn’t it?

Remember the time when James and John, jockeying for position, approached Jesus asking, “Arrange it so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory-one of us at your right, the other at your left?”

Jesus’ response in effect was, “Better think this through, boys. You have no idea what you’re asking.” When the other disciples heard this they lost their temper and became indignant, maybe even a teensy weensy bit jealous.

Then we hear Jesus’ great discourse about “rulers who lord it over them and high officials who exercise authority over them,” saying, “It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Mark 35-45).

Easy for you to say, Commissioner! I hear you thinking. Hey, I was just as surprised as the rest of you, perhaps more so. And besides didn’t Jesus also say something about the first being last?

Now that’s really scary!

Writer: Commissioner Joe Noland’s ministry can be summed up in three words: chaos, creativity and controversy - three elements implicit in any successful innovative endeavor. Cecil B. DeMille, renowned producer of Biblical epics, once wrote, “Creativity is a drug I cannot live without.” Joe’s mantra reads, “Creativity is my drug of choice.” Access Joe Noland’s complete bio, among other things, by clicking into his website.

Top Ten TSA Decisions of the Decade?

There was a time, many moons ago, when I thought that I might have a chance at making a difference in some of the areas where I felt we were lacking in the Army. As a very new Officer (by months) I met with a few fellow ‘newbie’s’ and we would of course put the Army right. Most of you know what that is and over the years I have seen this as a ‘sacred’ part of our culture and believe that it is one of the areas where officers can begin to make changes in some of the areas that need to improve. After one of these ‘newbie’ sessions where we all agreed that something needed to be done and so being young, possibly arrogant, ignorant and full of my own importance, I drafted a letter to the Commissioner, and in no uncertain terms laid out what my, or I should say ‘our’, concerns were. Posted it off and waited. I did get a one line note back saying that my concerns ‘had been noted’, and nothing else ever eventuated. However I was surprised that when I told my fellow newbie officers at our next meeting and told than what I had done; their biggest concern was ‘You didn’t mention our names did you?” Such is life.

I also remember at an Officer’s fellowship once where we were playing cards and talking about our Corps locals and it degenerated into a very holy realignment of our various Corps Locals. “I will ‘bet’ one miserable Bandmaster in exchange for two good Home Leaguers” said I, “and I will raise you one mean and incompetent Corps Treasurer for a Songster Leader who is sympathetic to the message;” etc, etc, you get the drift, and I am in no doubt that our local corps soldiers do the same thing about the officers that had been dropped on them from a great height. It still happens and last week I was asked if an officer going to a new Corps had any skeletons in their closet. This was from a soldier at a Corps where I was CO for two years and without doubt it was two of the worst years of my life. (Read; ‘People of the Lie’ by M. Scott Peck)

Over the years I have learned a few things, but still feel that I have so much to learn that I now feel that there is not enough time left, you know the old heads on young shoulders syndrome; however one of the things that I have learned is that when I became a ‘former’ all those things that I hoped to change when, and if, I was promoted to a place where I could have possibly made a difference, had to be left to others who might feel the same and continue working for improvement. It is one of the most painful feelings leaving things undone in any area of life.

I read with interest Commissioner Joe’s list of the ‘Top Ten Decisions of the Decade’ as far as the Salvation Army is concerned; or should we add in his view. I was greatly troubled from what I read and it was nothing to do with the actual decisions as he states they are “(Good or bad, right or wrong, will depend upon the reader’s perspective). Except for #4, I remain noncommittal, at least until the (my) next book is written.” However there does seem to be a hint of negativity from just putting together this list, and circulating it in this forum. It is human nature that in a group with very dramatic hurts and possible ongoing trauma from the way people have been treated by individuals in positions of power within the Army that it might have a resonance that will confirm very negative emotions in many people. I want to ask the question ‘What difference is this going to make to the future of the Army?’ If we believe that the Army was raised up by God and he continues to call people to follow him through it, then it surely is fair to assume that there are still people left in Authority in our great movement who feel the same and that they will pick up the ‘fight’ to rectify what we perceive as wrong. I would probably agree with Commissioner Joe about all the issues that he raises and be just as angry and crying out for justice as well, but not being part of the establishment any more as a ‘former’ (or retired), then if I were to raise these issues it could possibly be seen as a version of ‘Sour Grapes’ on my part.

I have recently been in contact with a CEO of a Not for Profit organisation whose mantra is ‘I am not here to develop your strengths but to improve your weaknesses’, when all current management theory is about developing strengths and managing the weaknesses. In the church over many years I have observed that we are such a caring group of people’ we are all about improving weaknesses wherever we find them and this by definition often puts us in the position of ignoring our strengths.

I was recently at the 80th birthday celebrations for General Eva Burrows, who was my Commissioner for a few years, and among the things that struck me as significant was that there were so many positives that emerged from her life and ministry.I was again struck by what I had missed out on as a ‘former’ and while that is so very painful, I believe that it is a far better feeling than spending available energy on replaying the negative like a cracked record that just will not stop.

I have counselled and coached many people who have been damaged by the Army and other organisations, let us not think that we are unique in the way that people have been dealt with by a minority of our leaders, and I personally recognise the pain of what could have been if..... However I want to move on and concentrate on what are our strengths, be they as an Army or as individuals like our formers who are doing great things despite how they have been dealt with. I continue to recognise the sacred responsibility that we all have of ‘putting the Army right’ but let’s not leave at just that. I believe that we have a responsibility to now focus on the positives so that the future will be bright for the Army; and for us as individuals.

Tell me what you think; am I alone in feeling this way?

Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

God’s not dead: How LA fills the pews ... and we don’t !

January 26, 2010

It’s not that I am especially pious. Believe me, I was mostly praying for cashmere this Christmas. As the old joke goes: Am I religious? No, I’m Church of England. But I have a confession to make: I do go to church, and not just at Christmas either. I go all the time. Even on weekdays sometimes.

I’m aware that such an admission is rather like owning up to being a trainspotter these days, but then I don’t have to put up with the desolate aisles and empty pews that most of you have become familiar with in Britain — where the best that can be hoped for on a Sunday is a faint whiff of incense and three old ladies and a homeless person singing watery hymns.

According to a report published tomorrow there is a sharp decline in religious belief in Britain. Half the population now calls itself Christian, down from two thirds in 1983. At the same time, the proportion who confess to “no religion” has increased from just under a third to more than four in ten. If Jews and Muslims are included, non-Christians now represent 7 per cent of the population, up from 2 per cent 25 years ago.

I hate to sound as if I’m boasting, but at the Anglican church my family attends in Los Angeles, you have to go early if you want a seat. Rather like being at a football match when your team has just won, the sheer numbers alone leave you with a spring in your step and a song on your lips.

St James Church, which sits at the intersection of an affluent middle-class neighbourhood, and many poorer communities in LA, is an Episcopal Church, that is the American equivalent of the Church of England.
But, unlike its British cousins, it is packed because it goes out of its way to create a community in a big, sprawling city. There’s a supper club on Wednesday nights, set up with the intention of giving mums a night off, and a chance for families to make friends.

There is also an elementary school, a nursery school and a reasonably priced child-care centre for working families. Then there’s the aerobics classes in the church hall — always popular; boy scout meetings — my son won’t miss one; and a soup kitchen for the homeless. Sometimes, if you are trying to raise a family, it’s hard to stay away from the place.

When I moved to LA a dozen or so years ago, religion was incidental to my life. Unless on a turbulent aircraft, indifference beckoned. There were a few childhood memories of Sunday school and sitting in a pew with a children’s Bible. But religion had slipped into cobwebbed disuse as soon as the teen years took over. Spirituality? Well, I listened to reggae music at parties. If I’d stayed in Britain, I’d probably have become another of the lost Christians.

But the combination of having children and moving to the US changed everything. It led to finding a school for my boys that happened to be attached to an Episcopal church, which meant there were all-school chapel services, and care for the spiritual well being of a child, not just academic achievement — something with which we were familiar from our own childhoods. Subconsciously, my husband and I were probably seduced by the similarities the school had with memories of England.

We started attending the church. Our eldest joined the choir. The hymns were the same, even if they got the tunes wrong, and the words of the service were as I remembered them growing up in a village in Hertfordshire 40-odd years before.

While churches in England have, for the most part, modernised their services in an attempt to attract bigger crowds — some of them becoming painfully evangelical and happy clappy — the Episcopal church in the US still uses the older, traditional liturgies, the ones that I remember nostalgically. It was these superficial trappings that appealed to us originally. My husband, who writes music for a living, is a sucker for a choir — but it is the values that we found there that has really kept us coming back.

At our church, it is not unusual to see children with two mums or two dads, sitting next to Koreans, African-Americans, Hispanics, as well as many white middle-class families. There are monied people from Beverly Hills, rubbing shoulders with artists from downtown. Gay people next to straight. It’s jolly, social and somehow has a relevance to everyone’s life. It reflects an acceptance of all, the kind of value I’d like my children to have. And it is a community. Spirituality, I believe, comes from acknowledging that we are part of something greater than just ourselves.

My father, who lives in London and used to take me to church as a child, no longer attends church. He compares sitting in an empty church with being a sole diner in a restaurant — miserable. What’s on offer in church has no connection to his life any more. Instead he goes to a business networking group to find community and carries his own ideas of spirituality inside his head. My mother (now separated from my father) still attends church, but she is one of only seven who attend regularly in her village. There are so few in the congregation, they all sit in the choir stalls.

I am now largely embarrassed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who took it upon himself to advise the bishops of the diocese of LA against electing the Rev Canon Mary D. Glasspool to be a bishop, because she happens to be openly gay.

I asked our rector, the Rev Paul Kowalewski, why his church was always full. “We are part of a community,” he says.
“In a big city like Los Angeles, people are looking for a community. We give them the welcome they are looking for.”

Hope in SW London

Tomorrow’s report will make grim reading on the decline of faith in Britain. The analysis by Professor David Voas, for the National Centre for Social Research of the 4,486 interviews in the 2008 British Social Attitudes survey, points to the steepest fall being among those who attend worship ceremonies in the Church of England.

Average Sunday attendance in 2007 fell to 978,000 compared with 1.2 million in 1983.

Voas says: “The declining Christian share is largely attributable to a drift away from the Church of England.” In church circles the accepted wisdom is that the decline can be linked to a move in liberal congregations away from biblical orthodoxy.

Figures from organisations such as Christian Research support the widely accepted thesis that all the growth is at the evangelical end.

But closer examination of thriving churches, such as the Los Angeles church profiled here by Lucy Broadbent, show that this need not be the case.

Canon Giles Fraser, Chancellor of St Paul’s, was until recently vicar of St Mary’s, Putney, in which there is hardly enough space in the church to hold the 350 Sunday worshippers, including 100 children.

What marks this church and many others in southwest London is that they are far from evangelical, unless that is taken in its original Greek and, ironically, biblical sense of being messengers of good news.

Canon Fraser’s “gospel” for success was a book by Dr Jeffrey John on how to do church well. Dr John is now Dean of St Albans having been forced to resign as Bishop of Reading because of his sexuality.

The Anglican Communion’s first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, preached at St Mary’s at the start of the 2008 Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. The Inclusive Church movement that campaigns for equality for gays in the church was started there by Canon Fraser. And the motion that eventually saw the General Synod agree in 1992 that women could be ordained to the priesthood began life with a motion from the parochial church council at St Mary’s.

St Mary’s has a café on the premises and a heavily oversubscribed church school near by. Just a dozen or so children from the congregation are admitted there each year — so the school does not explain the overflowing pews, or why so many families stay even when their children don’t make it through the admissions process.

What St Mary’s and its other local thriving churches do prove is that it is possible to be inclusive as a church in England, and not only survive but thrive.

Canon Fraser says: “It is just a question of doing the basics and doing them well. It is caring for people, preaching good sermons, making sure to be organised. There is a huge children’s programme with Sunday school teachers trained in what is called Godly Play. A lot of churches in that area are not evangelical but they are full.”

Holy Trinity Brompton, in Knightsbridge, southwest London, is packed with thousands of young Christians each Sunday and is the church where the successful Alpha course began. It is another example of a growing church.

From the opposite end of the evangelical spectrum to St Mary’s Putney, HTB has a more conventional approach to church growth, which includes “planting” or founding dozens of new congregations in London, many of which also flourish and to go on to plant yet more churches.

Since the 1960s it has been part of the secular creed that “God is dead”. But in spite of surveys such as tomorrow’s, the evidence is that belief in God is anything but dead. Churches and other religions across the spectrum have continued to defy prophecies of their imminent demise and, against the statistics, the signs are that they will continue to do so.


Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Release from the Darkness of Depression

I THOUGHT about suicide. One time I nearly drove the car into a lamppost. The other time I was in hospital. I was overcome with a sense of having ‘lost my soul’. I snuck out of the building with the full intention of having a truck run me over. Fortunately, a security guard intervened.

When I was in my mid-thirties, I guess most people would have believed I’d got my act together. I was married with two children. I was a Salvation Army officer with a master’s degree and was teaching theology at the officer training college in Chicago. I was a cornet soloist for one of America’s top Salvation Army bands and often appeared as a guest soloist at concerts.

I’d fallen in love with the cornet when I was eight. I won scholarships to band camps. At 16 I was playing in the solo cornet section of The Salvation Army’s premier Midwestern band, the Chicago Staff Band.

Then in 1971 something strange happened. I was pastoring a Salvation Army church in Chicago. On two occasions a feeling of foreboding swept over me. I couldn’t finish my sermons. I had to sit down. One day while driving to the office this sense of depression came again. It was so horrible I drove straight to the hospital and asked for help.

Eventually I was prescribed a course of electroconvulsive therapy, also known as ECT or shock therapy. It worked. After each treatment a fog lifted and when the series was completed everything went back to normal.

I tried to work out what was causing the depression. I think it was a mix of neurobiological and psychological factors.
My wife wanted us to stop being Salvation Army officers, yet I was totally fulfilled in my ministry. The fear of losing love – from my wife or love for my work – may have jump- started the condition.

Also, with my family roots going back to the days of The Salvation Army’s founder William Booth, I felt under pressure to be a success. Whatever the cause, this was not something that would go away just by thinking happy thoughts.

To keep my marriage and family together I left The Salvation Army and for the next seven years sought to fulfill my calling in other ways.

I completed another master’s degree and pastored two churches in the Houston area. I was in demand as an itinerant preacher and cornet soloist. I also branched into the world of finance.

Then my marriage started to crumble. At first I didn’t think it was anything that couldn’t be fixed. One evening we went to see the musical Annie. During the song ‘Tomorrow’ I reached for my wife’s hand and she quickly brushed mine aside. I knew in that moment that our marriage was over.

The sense of failure and hopelessness was overwhelming. I became obsessed with the thought of becoming a hermit, living hand-to- mouth in the forests north of Houston.

During a storm I was found wandering on the freeway, walking north towards the woods, and was taken to a doctor who put me on anti- depressants.

Abandonment became the theme of my life and I feared that I had somehow sinned against the Holy Spirit, which the Bible says is unforgiveable. Sometimes I slept on park benches or in my car. None of this was rational and it happened while I was still a successful investment banker.

I tried ECT again but it didn’t help this time. Eventually I moved into a studio apartment in a Houston tower block. I lived in isolation with an underlying feeling of being in a morass. I wasn’t capable of smiling. The blinds were always closed. I couldn’t bear to see the sunlight.

Except for work, which mainly involved talking to clients on the telephone, and the band I played in, I withdrew from the world. I wasn’t living. I was existing.

I tried everything in search of a cure.
Pastoral counsellors. Psychologists. Psychiatrists. Astrologers. Trance therapists and reincarnation hypnotherapists. The rational part of my brain branded the alternative therapists as ‘kooks’ but I was desperate, and desperate people do irrational things.

My physical health was also suffering. In the mid-1990s I had two heart attacks and two strokes within a short period of time.
I was in the hospital recuperating from my second stroke when a tremendous sense of God’s presence flooded my room through a very simple act: the birds outside my window were singing. For the first time since my depression

OME people may interpret theexperience in terms of my body’s biology changing but I’m convinced that God touched and healed me. He may have used biology as the means but after 15 years of hell I sensed his presence in such a powerful way that no one can tell me otherwise. God restored my soul.

Instead of despair I was now caught in an undercurrent of love. Psalm 124:7 took on new meaning: ‘Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped’ (Authorised Version).

Since that moment I’ve not had another bout of depression. I’m remarried, to a wonderful woman I’ve known since childhood, and I’m back as a guest soloist.

I don’t try to live up to anyone else’s expectations any more. I don’t fear the future. I simply trust in Jesus. Through him, I’ve come to accept God’s acceptance of me.

TOM GABRIELSEN
Former Officer
USA Central Territory

Tom Gabrielsen was speaking to Daryl Lach
The War Cry 6 December 2008 UK

7 NEW SOLDIERS AND RECRUITS WELCOMED IN RIGA, LATVIA


RIGA I CORPS, JANUARY 24, 2010 SOLDIER ENROLLMENT- UNIFORMS WERE A GIFT FROM THE FSAOF INITIATIVE !
49 Salvation Army uniforms in "very good to excellent" condition were solicited and received from:

LEICESTER CENTRAL CORPS
CHAFFEY FAMILY, CWM, WALES
EXETER TEMPLE CORPS
FOLKESTONE CORPS
PAISLEY CORPS, SCOTLAND
PORTSMOUTH CITADEL
LIVERPOOL WALTON CORPS
KILBIRNIE CORPS, SCOTLAND,
DEREK LUCAS FAMILY, WALES
SANDY MULLEN
S/L JULIETTE & PETER PARKER, IPSWICH CORPS (Woodbridge Rd.)
KAI KJALL STOCKHOLM TEMPLE CORPS, SWEDEN

Friday, January 22, 2010

HOME ALONE IN EXETER !

"While I can run, I'll run; while I can walk, I'll walk; when I can only crawl, I'll crawl. But by the grace of God, I'll always be moving forward" - Cavett Robert
Eleven days later, with more than 2714 miles traversed, 4 nights at sea, and hundreds of joyful faces left behind in Latvia, and not yet crawling (!) it will take a good while to wind down. However, the good news is that we'll soon pack another load of mixed humanitarian aid and SA articles for a spring return visit. Why not join us for an unforgettable mission journey where your contribution, whether it be wielding a paint brush or sharing an open-air testimony, will be blessed beyond measure. Watch for upcoming announcement or register your interest now to selmoscow@aol.com .

Here's a brief review of the projects our fellowship took on and achieved in 2009.

1. SIX HUNDRED FIFTY WINTER COATS FOR CHILDREN AND NEEDY ADULTS; many distributed from Skangali, TSA's Childrens home. All the coats are a gift from our fellowship's initiative and demonstrates our commitment to the ongoing, difficult, demanding and dedicated work in this former Soviet Union country.

More than (600 coats @ $ 20.00) $12,000.00



Realizing that recruits and soldiers are being enrolled on many fronts, Glad, Peter and Rut predict additional uniforms will be needed by late summer, 2010 !

2. Salvation Army uniforms in "very good to excellent" condition were solicited and received from:
LEICESTER CENTRAL CORPS
CHAFFEY FAMILY, CWM, WALES
EXETER TEMPLE CORPS
FOLKESTONE CORPS
PAISLEY CORPS, SCOTLAND
PORTSMOUTH CITADEL
LIVERPOOL WALTON CORPS
KILBIRNIE CORPS, SCOTLAND,
DEREK LUCAS FAMILY, WALES
SANDY MULLEN
S/L JULIETTE & PETER PARKER, IPSWICH CORPS (Woodbridge Rd.)
KAI KJALL STOCKHOLM TEMPLE CORPS, SWEDEN


(49 SA uniforms/overcoats @ $75.00 $3,675.00)

3. CHILDREN IN THREE LATVIAN VILLAGES WILL ENJOY A FREE DAILY MEAL IN SCHOOL THROUGH MAY, 2010; A FSAOF PROJECT

$2,800.00

4. CHILDRENS CLOTHING COLLECTED AND DELIVERED

Approx. 300 pieces-many new @ $15.00) $4,500.00

5. More than $ 7,500.00 donated directly (cash) and through related costs (exploratory visits and transport/delivery

THANK YOU FSAOF AND SUPPORTERS... A unique Thank You certificate from TSA Latvia will be presented to each supporting individual/group.















OUR LATVIAN COMRADES AND WONDERFUL HOSTS !Rut and Peter Baronowsky, Regional Commanders, Latvia















A REVIEW OF WHAT TRANSPIRED WITHIN THE FSAOF IN 2009 AND ON OUR BLOG...

















Sven Ljungholm
Former
USA East- active soldier Exeter, UKT

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mission: LATVIA 2010 Part Five

It was early Sunday morning when Igor, our Russian-speaking guide and translator, greeted us in the hotel lobby. We had a 2-½ hour drive ahead of us and wanted to be on time for the Holiness Meeting in Seda, a village located on a snowy rural road somel distance from a major thoroughfare in northeast Latvia. As we took our seats in our Toyota Corolla van Igor remarked how strange it felt to have the driver seated on the right and appeared a bit apprehensive as we set off. (Traffic in Latvia drives on the right hand side and which I handle well, Glad however, doesn’t and therefore does little driving outside the UK) To make certain we didn’t get lost in the wintry wilderness Lt. Peter Baronowsky had loaned us his satnav which included every SA destination in Latvia and more, a unofficial road map of Latvia (vintage unknown) and his own hand written cartography detailing where in the village the unmarked SA was located including the color of the houses and the make and model of the Corps Officer's automobile. Peter shared ‘it will probably be the only car in the village’. The satnav was programmed in Sweden and consequently gave directions in Swedish, Igor seated behind me gave directions in Russian and I in English and Glad prayed! We all took credit for arriving some ten minutes before the meeting began.

As we stepped out of the car both Captain Sergei and his wife, 2nd year Cadet, Aizan Konovs came bounding out of the side door of the building through the deep snow and bid us welcome. The Captain’s wife Aizan can only be described as the epitome of the joy filled Salvationist Officer. No interpreter was needed to translate the joy and exuberance of spirit expressed by the Cadet. We were brought into the small hall where every seat was taken and then led into a smaller part of the building where the Sunday School was already in progress. We were treated to coffee, tea and cookies and introduced to the children and Senior Soldiers. Among the children were the twins Signe and Sogne, the latter wheelchair bound due a series of back operations. Her mother told us that they won't know if the latest operation was successful until rehab has begun; there is no assurance that the government can provide such assistance any time soon.

We heard the strumming of a guitar and soon the strains of ‘As the Deer’ being played expertly by Captain Sergei, and so we were led back to the main meeting room where a bench had been carried in for us to sit on. As I looked around I noted that many people were sharing a chair seat or stool with others, some 28 or so in total. Throughout the service more adults and children came in from the bitter cold and squeezed in. It was an interesting mix of people consisting of some quite elderly, many in their mid years and also young families; a few of the men seemed a bit worse for wear. All followed the progress of the meeting with great interest, some perhaps because they knew it would be followed by a delicious hot meal.

Musings …

Two years ago no one in this remote part of Latvia had ever heard of The Salvation Army. And, had they taken the time to Google TSA in Russian they would have learned that The Salvation Army was a branch of the USA; Central Intelligence Agency, or, a western (cult) created to infiltrate the former Soviet Union during the confused era following perestroika. This area of the former SU, however, had learned the truth about the army’s mission.

The Salvation Army pays no rent for the meeting rooms provided them by the local government, their only cost is in paying for the heat in the space provided them. In two months the health clinic that occupies the majority of the well kept and centrally located building will move to new quarters and the entire building will be provided for the free use of the SA outpost. Meetings are held twice weekly and social services are offered as well.

A husband and father, a well known local criminal in town, began attending meetings shortly after the Army’s arrival. He had been arrested, charged and convicted of a crime and was awaiting sentencing. During that time both he and his wife were saved; she is now a soldier. When the day of sentencing came the Corps Officers accompanied ‘Andre’ to the trial sentencing requesting the opportunity to speak to the court on his behalf. The judge heard the story of Andre’s conversion and positive new lifestyle and decided to, instead of sending him back to prison, to release him to the custody of the local Salvation Army. The impact that these officer heroes are having in this small part of Latvia is remarkable and speaks to their commitment and God’s faithfulness.

A key element in the morning meeting was the enrollment of three more recruits adding to the already impressive number. We shared with the Captain that we had delivered 47 uniforms to regional Headquarters in Riga he joked and said we are having a bit of a revival as you can see. Is there any chance half of them can be delivered to us?! From what we witnessed the Captain may well be prophetic.

God bless The Salvation Army in Seda!




Sven Ljungholm
(active) Former