Saturday, January 30, 2016

No one contacted us following the visit....

I MUST admit to being quite impressed with the attractive new Salvation Army building which came as a happy surprise in the rough-looking neighborhood we had entered. Free Sunday Municipal parking across the street also gave us some positive first impressions.

However, it was not until we had entered the building, hung up our coats and walked towards the sanctuary that we were actually greeted. At this time we were handed programs and given a simple "good morning." The hall was quite full - about 200 people were present - and someone (probably the corps sergeant-major) came to welcome us and ask us our names. Then in the preliminaries to the meeting, this person welcomed us publicly - a nice gesture!

Perhaps it was natural that we felt slightly uneasy, walking in as strangers - the gap is not easily bridged with "regulars." Most of the people ignored us, but some displayed what was more a formal politeness than a warm welcome. Maybe this has something to do with the size of the congregation.

There was some humor injected into the Bible message which I thought was a good way to gain attention and keep it. I found myself listening (even though I could not see the speaker) and my mind was nor wandering elsewhere.

As I watched other members of the congregation it seemed that their attention was also captivated by the speaker. The message did not inspire or challenge me so much as instruct me, helping me to see a relationship between an Old Testament incident and my own need.

I can't say I felt special spiritual excitement in the meeting or among the people. It was more like a series of rituals, one following the other. Probably listening to the band benefited me most because I found the music so positive sounding - it gave me a happy feeling.

Apparently the officers conducting the meeting were former corps officers, so at the end of the meeting there were many people eager to get reacquainted. We simply bade our goodbyes and departed.

To the question, "Could you easily become part of a corps fellowship like this?" I would have to say that it would take considerable effort. I do not fault the Salvationists there, but simply feel there was nothing special enough for us to want to go out of our way again to attend. We do not live in the area. No one contacted us following the visit, but then they didn't have our phone number or address, anyway. And frankly, we would have felt uneasy, had a visitor been too pushy.


Anonymous said...

Funny! As a Salvationist I went to church recently as a one off - just needed somewhere nearby that I could slip in and out of. I was warmly greeted at the door, taken to a seat on the front row as there were no others left. No one else spoke ot me, a few nearby smiled. When it came to the service I suddenly realised I didn't have any books or order of service that I could follow the liturgy with. Everyone around me recited it parrot fashion and nobody offered me a book or even seemed to notice that I was excluded. As part of the service we shared the peace, this appeared to be a sincere, meaningful moment for most but only one person reached out to me. I sat there thinking how different it would be in the Army and how important personal contact is. At the end of the service one person genuinely shook my hand, asked if I was visiting, asked my name and promised to pray for me. I rather imagine she has prayed for me. But my experience left me thinking how careful and sincere we need to be with new people (all people) who come into our Corps and try and get that hard balance between frighteningly OTT and gushing and warm and sincere with possibly cards available for people to complete their contact details if they choose to.

Anonymous said...

Hmm - could the motivation of the visitor be a little suspect? The article reads like the Salvation Army failed a test somehow with the negative clinical analysis of the corps' every move. What were the members supposed to do or say? The main purpose of attending a place of worship should be to meet with God and commune with Him though the medium of the particular worship denomination. Everything else should be incidental. Yes, it's nice when people show an interest, but each person responds differently, some welcome it, others are more private, and as the first commenter says, sometimes it's difficult to get the balance right. I once visited a SA corps at Christmas time when I was on holiday, and I arrived after it had started - everyone was sitting in a circle taking part in a Christmas candlelight meditation. I sat at the back - no-one spoke to me or offered me an order of service. But I found a peace in listening to the members taking part and definitely gained a spiritual dimension in that meeting. I did stay afterwards, and some of the corps folk came and talked to me, but some didn't. Perhaps by slipping out immediately after the service finished prevented any communication taking place with the writer of the article. I advise the article's author to adopt the JOY technique - Jesus First, yourself last, and others in between. If they do this, it won't matter if all the congregation talk to them, or none - their focus would be on Jesus, and then everything else fades into insignificance.