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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Lent challenge: A World of Prayer

I wonder what you have decided to give up/take up for Lent this year? Perhaps it's chocolate or Facebook (giving up, not taking up I hope). Or perhaps you've decided to add a daily devotional or Bible reading to your weekly schedule.

I've decided to spend this Lent (starting of course on March 1st) praying specifically for the Salvation Army and wider Church around the world, using the 5 International Zones in which the Salvation Army's worldwide work is organised as a guide and focus.

These Zones are:
•Americas & Caribbean
•South Asia
•South Pacific & East Asia

I thought maybe this idea might appeal to someone else, so I'm posting it here in case someone else feels led to spend Lent praying for The Salvation Army and wider Church around the world.

If my calculations are correct, then praying specifically for one Zone a day would mean that each one would be prayed for eight times. So it struck me that splitting Lent into eight, five day sections would give me the chance to specifically focus on eight different areas of ministry for each Zone:

•Troubled Communities and national challenges.
•Individual Territories and commands
•Social Services

So the idea would be to, for example spend the first five days praying for Leadership (development, Calling, active Officers/ministers etc) taking one Zone a day, the following five days; discipleship, then Mission and so on.

It's not just about praying for these places in a vague way, but specifically getting to know these Zones and Territories, that might be quite unfamiliar to many of us. It will take a little research, perhaps asking questions, and trying to understand what the issues, problems, challenges etc are for each of these Zones in the above ministry focus areas, I'm hoping that on a personal level this Lent challenge connects me to the wider Salvation Army and Church and helps me understand what's going on around the world, and also of course that we would be connected better to each other, heart, mind and soul. 

The following Salvation Army Facebook Groups may be quite helpful for information and to open dialogue, I'm a member of each of them & will post this and subsequent posts on these groups. I would suppose that these groups contain representatives from most if not all Zones, who would be happy to answer any questions they can:

I've also included the website for the Salvation Army International Headquarters which provides lots of helpful information, including a breakdown of Territories and Commands within each Zone:

And of course the new Salvation Army Yearbook which is available to buy now; including in eBook format.

For my Part I'll try and add a blog post at the beginning of each 5 day period discussing briefly each ministry focus area.

I've also included on here a schedule breakdown of the prayer focus for each day; feel free to copy, paste, write down, download or whatever format makes it easier to follow.

1 - Leadership: Africa
2 - Leadership: Americas & Caribbean
3 - Leadership: Europe
4 - Leadership: South Asia
5 - Leadership: South Pacific & East Asia
6 - Discipleship: Africa
7 - Discipleship: Americas & Caribbean
8 - Discipleship: Europe
9 - Discipleship: South Asia
10 - Discipleship: South Pacific & East Asia
11 - Vision: Africa
12 - Vision: Americas & Caribbean
13 - Vision: Europe
14 - Vision: South Asia
15 - Vision: South Pacific & East Asia
16 - Mission: Africa
17 - Mission: Americas & Caribbean
18 - Mission: Europe
19 - Mission: South Asia
20 - Mission: South Pacific & East Asia
21 - Fellowship: Africa
22 - Fellowship: Americas & Caribbean
23 - Fellowship: Europe
24 - Fellowship: South Asia
25 - Fellowship: South Pacific & East Asia
26 - National Challenges: Africa
27 - National Challenges: Americas & Caribbean
28 - National Challenges: Europe
29 - National Challenges: South Asia
30 - National Challenges: South Pacific & East Asia
31 - Individual Territories and Commands: Africa
1 - Individual Territories and Commands: Americas & Caribbean
2 - Individual Territories and Commands: Europe
3 - Individual Territories and Commands: South Asia
4 - Individual Territories and Commands: South Pacific & East Asia
5 - Social Services: Africa
6 - Social Services: Americas & Caribbean
7 - Social Services: Europe
8 - Social Services: South Asia
9 - Social Services: South Pacific & East Asia

If anybody is interested in this Lent prayer focus idea, and needs additional information or help, feel free to contact via my Facebook page (details below) or comment either here or in whichever group you see this post.
Look out for additional posts during Lent with more specific guidance on each Ministry Focus area and the respective Zones, and a more focused post(s) for Holy Week itself. To avoid missing a post you may want to sign up to this blog with your email address (see below).

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Disclaimer: Although this blog is written from the perspective of a member of the Salvation Army, the views, comments, opinions etc may not necessarily represent the views, policies etc of the wider Salvation Army.

Monday, 20 February 2017

An Army on its knees

I'm sure you've heard it said an Army marches on its stomach but this Army marches on its knees...

Our mission 
Sinceit's beginning, The Salvation Army has been walking a tightrope between Faith and Action...a fall to either side would destroy the very fabric of what the Army is, and was raised up to be. It's Mission has always been a double edged sword...'Hand to man' of course but never neglecting the 'Heart to God'.

I guess some would argue that there is no conflict between these two ideals...that service and action come out of a deep faith and eternal responsibility. Of course I agree with this, but, is it ever possible to really focus on these two things with equal determination and dedication? Christ Himself stated that we cannot serve two masters in Matthew 6:24.

Church or charity?
If we're not careful, we can become so wrapped up in meeting physical needs that we become little more than yet another charitable organisation.  'Fine', some people might say, 'what does it matter why the Salvation Army does what it does?' 

It matters because the things we do have eternal consequences, and it matters because we are not just a charitable organisation; we are a religious order with a divine commission. I know that some people's only experience of the Salvation Army may be 'secular employees' that may or may not have a faith; perhaps this is the problem, The Army has in some ways become two separate organisations: secular and religious. Although of course, at it's heart the Army still remains a religious organisation.

We have to watch the dangers of becoming better known for charitable acts than faith, where faith is seen as separate or even secondary. Perhaps in today's world this is unavoidable; the need for regulation and accountability in charities means that professional employees and methods are needed particularly in an organisation the size of the Salvation Army. Yes it's acceptable that employees can be religious but it almost seems like society 'tolerates' the religious side of the Army because of the benefits of what we do. Our priorities have perhaps become unbalanced, maybe we have become to big or unmanageable? I don't know what the answer is, but it is vital we remember who we are and where we came from.

The opposite side of the problem is when faith without action takes over. When we focus on the 'religious side' of the Army and neglect our mission to 'Serve Suffering Humanity'. This has become a problem with the wider Church, or at least the reputation of the wider Church; that sitting and singing songs is all we are good for; that we do not care about the world outside our walls and that we only exist to make everyone follow our rules while excluding everyone who resists or doesn't fit in.

The balance
In between these two issues lies one of my favourite words: 'Balance'.
Balance between who we are and what we do, balance between serving our fellow man physically and spiritually and doing all this while nourishing our own spiritual lives and walk with Christ.

My own Corps is not always great at hitting the balance. We are a very busy Corps, and lots of people spend lots of time doing lots of things. We need (and I personally need) to constantly refocus to look past the busyness and constantly ground ourselves. Just a brief example from my Corps of one way we try to do that is the way in which musical practice's are organised; specifically from my experience as a songster I have found that it is vital to balance practice time to ensure we are the best we can be, as well as devotional time which provides focus and inspiration.

I love this quote from William Booth about this idea of balance:

"Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again; until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other."

Praying with all your might! 
The idea of Faith and action being indistinguishable from action is brilliant, and I think this is what we should be aiming for; a strong, grounded, disciplined faith that naturally spreads out into the world as action. But strong, grounded, disciplined faith does not happen overnight, it requires constant work, study and above all prayer. Which of course William Booth also has a lot to say about:

"You must pray with all your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God. This kind of prayer be sure the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame."

Discipline and discipleship are absolutely vital...there is no getting around that. Bible study and prayer are often the first things to be neglected in a busy church or corps, but it is when we're busy they become even more important! 

Your responsibility
Perhaps you have found that your church has been losing focus, or neglecting discipleship, if this is the case ask God for help, ask Him what you personally can do to inspire a refocus and recommitment to put discipleship, discipline, prayer and study back at the centre of all things where they belong... don't mourn or despair in the loss of focus... get up, get out, get on your knees and do something about it! 

Your church needs YOU to be a light, to inspire and to set the example, prioritize discipleship, prayer and study, it is not enough to wish or to hope or even to moan about the loss or lack of discipleship...if we are to be all that we can be we have to start putting all these things first...all that we do; all the great social work and fundraising is nothing if we are not growing in faith and above all growing closer to God!

This then is the final thought to leave today's post on:
Look for the balance, work for the balance. Do not become so busy you lose focus on why you are doing what you're doing. We need to remember the two part Mission of the Salvation Army and every Christian.... 'Heart to God, Hand to Man'. Both are vital and together they make an unstoppable force for good. We must be relevant, meeting modern needs with expertise and professionalism but first and foremost we are a religious movement commissioned, Inspired and equipped by God...but we have to stay connected with the source of our strength and keep our hearts focused on Christ. The more we do, the more we move out of our own strength, and the more we must rely on Christ; and the more God's light will shine in us, through us and of course out of us!

Perhaps this should be a reminder to the Church, and all of us:

"Half an hour's meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed." - St Francis De Sales

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Thursday, 16 February 2017

A Place to Call Home

There are some really special places in this world, places that mean a great deal for many different reasons... this post is about perhaps the most important of these Spiritual church...

A week or so ago I published a post entitled 'Where it all Began', talking a little about my first real Church, the encouragement and inspiration that helped sow the seeds of my spiritual growth and development; check it out by clicking here

Today's post is a bit of a sequel. Not where I started, but where I am now, the importance of finding a spiritual home, a place to belong, some of the problems that can happen, the fallouts the failures and why it's worth persevering with a faith community and the Salvation Army we call them 'Corps' but 'Church' is just as relevant & I think these issues are just as important regardless of which denomination you belong to and identify with.

My Church
Here's just a brief overview of myself, my church and where we are as a fellowship and family.

I started attending my home Corps (Coventry City, UK) about 13 years ago-ish. I've been a Senior Soldier for 12 years this July. (At the time of writing) I started attending during a strange time for the Corps. We were in between buildings, as we were waiting for the construction of a new building to replace the old one which had become unfit for purpose. So the whole Corps was in a bit of a limbo situation, sharing a building with another Church community.

Eventually our brand spanking new building opened in mid 2005, followed shortly by a change in Officers (ministers).

So a new home, new leaders. A new start and fresh beginning. Not just for the Corps but for me personally.

In this Corps I found welcome, love and a spiritual home. Of course I also found politics, fallouts and the occasional argument...because unfortunately for the Church, it's populated by us imperfect sometimes petty human beings, (and yes I am including myself at the forefront of that).

So what is a spiritual home?
A physical home should be a place of rest, a place where you feel comfortable where you can unwind from the pressures of the day. A spiritual home should have some of these qualities but it also needs to be a place of challenge and inspiration that will not always be comfortable but will bring you encouragement and fulfillment.

Dysfunctional family
Coventry City Corps is where I find these things but let me be clear, we are a long way off a perfect community. We can fall out, annoy each other, dismiss each other but I'd like to think when things are rough we would be there for each other. We are a family....but a dysfunctional family sometimes.

My Church has, over the last few years, become home to a different group of people... We have joined a group of other churches in the city to host a winter night shelter. We have become a temporary home on one night a week during the winter, providing warmth, comfort and food the very things a home should provide. On a personal note while I've been involved in the night shelter I have found time to sit in our main Worship hall devoid of light and people and I have found a real sense of peace and homeliness; reflecting on all the friendships and relationships that have been built in that room when it's full, relationships with God have been built and testified too, prayers have been said, commitments made (including my own wedding vows). It truly is the heart of our spiritual home, but I suppose when full this is hard to see.

Why you need your Church & why your Church needs you
Manypeople, perhaps someone reading this have, been hurt by the Church in some way or another. And I am truly sorry for that. But despite this I still feel that the Church is necessary, that belonging to a Church community is necessary, and not just because of the benefits we can receive, but also because of the journey we are on together; We can, even unknowingly support and encourage those around us in our faith communities just by being an example.

I know what a lot of people say "you don't need to go to Church to be a Christian..." And I understand this position and I can see the point, I would even agree, to a point. The old rebuttal to that position is of course "you don't need a parachute to jump out of a aeroplane...but it certainly helps." The point is, we need each other. We have to walk together to find encouragement and strength in each other, and we need to serve alongside each other... Think about a major incident like an earthquake or flood; yes, individuals can help and make a huge difference, but it takes an Army, committed, organised and mobilised to really turn the tide, with supply drops, airlifts etc, we can be that Army...but it means putting aside our squabbles and differences and work together.

So let's be a true family and community. But let's go into it with our eyes open; understanding that we will annoy each other, we will fall out and hurt each other but by the grace of God and mutual love and understanding we can get past all this and be a true family. Ultimately we are better and stronger together, even when we annoy each other and fallout over petty stuff.

I would love to hear your feedback and comments on this blog, and of course feel free to sign up with your email address to avoid missing new posts (if viewing on a mobile device you may need to click on 'view web version')

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Monday, 13 February 2017

No Soldier Left Behind!

It can be very difficult to stand out from the crowd, to do something that makes you look or act different from what is considered 'normal' (whatever that is).

The Salvation Army soldier is I think the embodiment of this. It requires the strength of will and courage to be different, to look a little odd in other people's eyes, to make life choices that people won't always understand; things like not drinking or gambling etc, the visible stuff. I wonder if sometimes when we put on the uniform we are saying to people: 'We have made it. We are complete Christians.' The trouble, I think is that becoming a Salvation Army soldier has become the destination rather than the journey. We celebrate (and rightly so) the decision and commitment of people signing the 'Soldiers Covenant' we clap, we pray, we give words of encouragement, and this is all great; It truly is. But the difficulty I think is keeping up this encouragement in the days, weeks, months, years, even decades that follow.

Now just to clarify; I am not singling out Soldiers over adherents or other members, we are all one Army, I don't consider Soldiers any more blessed or called to serve than anyone else, that being said, there is a difference, a different call and mission. But they are not greater or less than other members, this post applies to everyone, member/Adherent/Soldier etc (and of course every other group of Christians or probably any group of people really). let's keep in mind that soldiership is not for everyone, it doesn't fit with everyone's' personal theological outlook or lifestyle... And that's ok!

Life gets busy, Church gets busy, and slowly life takes over. This is a personal post because I know I am guilty of letting life take over, of not being as supportive in the long run, of not praying as often as I should for those soldiers and adherents that I have seen make their commitments to God through the Salvation Army. I also know that I am poor at receiving encouragement, in that I often, without realising, isolate myself, partly due to work commitments which keep me away from always attending on a Sunday and my own introverted nature which causes me to try and be as private, guarded and self sufficient as I can, not opening up and both giving and receiving encouragement.

We are a family, we must work together, sometimes we have to put ourselves out there and be an active part of this family. I know this doesn't come easily or naturally to many people (myself included) but let me tell you something that should be obvious but took me longer than it should to realise... People are not mind readers, they are busy, they have stressful jobs and home lives...they have a million and one things that need attention and focus, as we all do. But let's be clear that doesn't mean that they do not care about you, or that they won't be there for you in a heartbeat if you need them.

My home Corps (Church), is quite large & very busy, everyone has lots to do and sort out; Sunday's can quite easily become the busiest day of the week, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd. I wouldn't be too surprised if some people found me a little arrogant or aloof, or perhaps a bit of a mystery and don't really understand or know me, I'm sure I'm not the only one. I do think that this is the flip side of a big corps, yes it's active, yes it's probably financially stable but it can be so easy for members, Adherents and Soldiers to slip through the cracks, to lose themselves in busyness or to become lost in the shuffle.

There are some absolutely amazing people in my home Corps; Godly, faithful, devoted and Inspirational men and women of God. I'm sure this is true of most Corps, and most Churches. But to the introvert, you and I can be inspirational men and women of God and encouraging to others...but if you're like me, you would rather be in the background away from the limelight. That is not our call to make, it is a waste of our God given gifts, knowledge, talent and revelation to lock ourselves away. Remember that just because someone seems like they've 'made it' or they're the most outgoing extroverted person you could ever meet, we are all fighting our own individual battles and need each other.

This then is the challenge: in all the busyness of an active Corps, remember that community and fellowship is a two way street, it is not acceptable to separate yourself (intentionally or unintentionally) and  simply 'exist' within the community of faith, and perhaps disappear off the radar and then blame others for how we feel. those of us who are introverted that means recognising our own value, it means finding the strength to go beyond the 'I'm fine' level of community and regardless of how difficult we may find it; actively seeking and building true community and fellowship, being open even when we want to hide ourselves away; And remembering as I said above, that we are all fighting our own battles and truly need each other...for the extrovert it requires effort as well. It requires pushing us sometimes reluctantly through the 'I'm fine' stages, not letting us get away with quick conversation stoppers because I assure you, we do not separate ourselves because we don't care, or because we don't love you as family... We just take a bit longer to feel comfortable expressing it, but as you care and support us and would be there for us in any situation, we are all those things too.

Without this community we are only living a half life, together we are one body, complete and fit for the mission God calls us to. Each of us has our part to play, we are one people, one Church, One Army.

As 1 Corinthians 12:18-22 reminds us:

'But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.'

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Saturday, 11 February 2017

These Boots are made for walking: A Boundless Legacy

I took the picture above in July 2015 which for Salvationists should hopefully ring some bells as the date of the Salvation Army's most recent international Congress (big gathering of Salvation Army folk from around the world for anyone not familiar with Salvation Army terminology) held at the O2 Arena in London. The gathering, as I'm sure most of us know was 'Boundless 2015' I think really the Congress probably needs it's own post so I won't go into too much detail for now. But watch this space...

I had intended this post just to be a one off, but as I'm writing I'm wondering if I should do a semi regular series...let's give it a working title of 'A Boundless legacy' so in the same way as the most recent Star Wars film had the more open ended secondary title of 'A Star Wars story' so 'A Boundless Legacy' will be attached to posts about the 2015 Congress. (Unless I get a better idea or I get a deluge of comments begging me to stop) let me know what you think about this in the comments.

I suppose lots of people reading this who attended the gathering will have seen these boots displayed in the far end of the O2 arena's main concourse as part of an exhibition about the Army's history... (Hopefully you also located the free Crispy Creme doughnut was a particular personal favourite of mine)

I will start with a bit of a disclaimer... I make no promises that the following story is true, although I have no reason to doubt it, I couldn't find additional information on this, so feel free to take the story with a pinch of salt... Or better yet if you can provide more information, or context that would be appreciated... Either way the point I'm making still stands.

So the story of these boots according to tradition and the note with them is that back in early days of the Salvation Army an Officer called Alfred Wolfe who was Corps Officers (Church leader) at Barnet Corps was visiting the General, William Booth, during this visit Booth noticed that Wolfe's shoes had holes in them so Booth gave him a spare pair of his own boots. These have been treasured, preserved and passed on through the Wolfe family. And here we see them lovingly displayed.

This gift represents far more than a generous act, it's symbolic of an Army that must remember it's purpose and the reason it has been raised up by God...that reason is to go wherever it's needed to 'Serve Suffering Humanity' a phrase which I seem to be using a lot, but I make no apologies for that, it's something that we need to keep focusing on, there are so many people that are suffering and in need l, and it's our job, not just for Salvationists but for all Christians to meet this need as best we can and in the loving spirit of God. All this goes right back to the great commission from Matthew's Gospel:

'Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”' Matthew 28:18-20

These boots that Booth passed on were designed for walking, marching and serving. Let's remember that when we wear our uniforms or Church clothes that we are not stepping out in a fashion show but we are stepping out to serve others. We have work to do.

In my secular job I am required to wear steel toe-capped boots, they are not particularly nice to look at, they are certainly not what I would describe as comfortable. But they are functional and are there to protect my feet, I am not suggesting that we should deliberately make ourselves uncomfortable, but functionality must certainly come first in our Churches, and in our missions. After all Christ did not come to earth in comfort and peace but into poverty and violence...somewhere between the two lies that wonderful word 'balance'.

So today's challenge... Remember why we have the gifts we have and what we can do with them...while I think about it. Here's a link to an online Spiritual gifts questionnaire, while not necessarily binding and exhaustive it may help you discover what it is that God has equipped you and commissioned you to do

If you've never taken this test or one like it I would really recommend it. If you have it's always worth taking again... Spiritual gifts can be fluid and changeable as God equips us in different areas for different purposes.

But as I was saying. Always remember that you are built for a purpose not just to look pretty, you are a functional member of the body of Christ. This was I think, the legacy of 'Boundless' an Army and a Church marching and serving together.

And finally: You are Boots, and you are made for walking!

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Thursday, 9 February 2017

An Army at War: Part 2 (1939 - 1945)

Here is Part 2 of 'An Army at War' hope you enjoy.
(Here's a link to part 1 '1914-1918' )

In 1939 The World was once again plunged into war. This time however, The Salvation Army would find itself fighting it's own personal battle for survival. Persecuted, divided and attacked like never before.

The man to guide the Army through this crisis was the 5th General, Australian George Carpenter, who took office on 1st November 1939 as the world and the Salvation Army was dragged into the Second World War.

The worldwide Army was torn apart, as communication with International Headquarters in London became almost impossible, conscription severely diminished it's active adult manpower, evacuation effectively ended children's work in the UK's urban areas, and many older members in the UK took on voluntary service in the Home Guard, Air Raid Precaution Wardens etc. Blackouts, destruction of Corps and other wartime constraints and protective measures devastated what was left of congregations.

On the night of May 10th/11th 1941 tragically, and almost symbolic of the Army's problems; International Headquarters itself was almost totally destroyed in an air raid by German bombers.

The Army in the UK was down but not out, continually on the streets doing what they could to assist emergency services and all those affected by the devastation. This was an Army damaged, hurt and weakened, but still committed to 'Serving Suffering Humanity' wherever and whenever they could.

The Salvation Army in mainland Europe faced an even more direct and imminent threat as the third Reich marched ever onwards and nation after nation fell under Nazi occupation and ongoing devastating conflict, as Europe continued to tear itself apart.

In order to keep this post relatively short here's just a short breakdown of how the Army fared in occupied Europe and the East. Please feel free to join the conversation with stories, context, opinions and any additional information in the comments section.

- Finland was devastated by a long and bitter war against Russia, joined forces with Nazi Germany but ultimately fell to Russian occupation. The Army continued it's work as best it could until early 1942 when the Finnish government officially advised the Army leaders to evacuate.

- Norway and Denmark were occupied in 1940, Army work continued but hampered by buildings being requisitioned for military purposes, curfews, blackouts, arrests and so on.

- Belgium and Holland saw arrests, the suppression of 'the war cry', deportation of Salvationists to Germany for forced labour.

- France was split in two by the capitulation of compi├Ęgne in 1940, communication between occupied and unoccupied France was forbidden, serving Salvation Army officers were imprisoned. Major George Flandre was betrayed and shot.

When the rest of France fell, the Salvation Army was effectively disbanded; meetings and uniforms were forbidden, Army properties were seized and sold by the state.

There was some hope though. Monsieur Marc Boegner president of France's Federation of reformed Churches allowed Army meetings to be held in his own Churches and incorporated the Army's social services programmes into their own Churches.

- Estonia, Latvia, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Italy, Germany: all suffered from arrests, buildings being seized, etc
Ironically Germany's Territorial Headquarters was severely damaged in an air raid by allied forces.

- Switzerland remained neutral but did everything it could to support the suffering and displaced, with financial aid and the housing of refugees, even at the cost of severing it's own ties with International Headquarters in London.

- Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, China and Korea all suffered harsh treatment, arrests, subjugation, attacks, formal dissolution and amalgamation into a state run, controlled, monitored and regulated, religious organisation.

A brief word about my home city of Coventry, known today as the city of peace and reconciliation.
On the night of 14th November 1940 the German air force devastated this city including the heartbreaking destruction of our Cathedral and most of the city centre. It has left a permanent scar on our city and identity.

(Here's a link to an old blog post of mine with more information about this event:

A German newspaper of the time apparently described Coventry as 'the hate filled, victory assured symbol of the absolute destruction of an enemy city'.

Reconciliation of nations, families and our broken Army was vital after the war ended, scars ran deep, pain and suffering had devastated the entire world

How could anything survive what the Salvation Army went through during the Second World War? How could this damaged and broken Army ever march as one?

But by the Grace of God, it did.
It returned, it healed, and it grew.
The words of the worship song 'In Christ Alone' by Stuart Townend springs to mind:

'No power of Hell,
No Scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand.'

The Salvation Army pulled together, in every corner of the world. Relief teams from Britain, America and Sweden flooded Europe, Corps were rebuilt, Flags donated, Salvationist brothers and sisters from around the world lifted each other up in love, kindness and fellowship.
Coventry City Band visited Germany shortly after the War a sign of forgiveness and reconciliation from a city that had every right to hate and despise everything about Germany. This friends, is forgiveness and family. This is what we mean when we talk about 'One Army'

If such darkness and evil can be overcome, then anything can. In these times, when hatred and suspicion seem to be on the rise, take heart in this reconciliation, rebuilding and hope that whatever the future holds, this Army and the God it serves can and will endure.

In this spirit, let me end today's post with Romans 8:38-39

'For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

An Army at War: Part 1 (1914 - 1918)

This is the first in a two part look at the work of the Salvation Army during the first and second World Wars, I hope you find it interesting. (EDIT: Part 2 - '1939-1945' is available here: )

2 years after Bramwell Booth son of the founder of the Salvation Army William Booth became the 2nd General (international leaact) The Secular and religious worlds collided in spectacular fashion...the year was 1914...

Still relatively young, the Salvation Army faced a challenge unlike any other. An entire world engaged in total war, nation fighting nation, good men on both sides forced to kill each other, brothers in Christ torn apart and a united, international Army suddenly and dramatically divided.

It's important to remember the atmosphere around the world in 1914 as the shadow of war fell. This was the first time civilians and the home front became an active part of the conflict, propaganda became an important weapon. Each nation had to prioritise morale to keep spirits up at home and inspire courage and heroism in the front line soldiers. To this end each nation did everything they could to villify it's enemies and play up its own strengths and reputation.

This became a real problem for the Salvation Army and the wider Church who believed (and still do) that everyone, from every nation, and every walk of life are important, loved and precious to God. This message of peace and understanding was not what the country wanted to hear, but nevertheless it's the purpose for which God raised up the Salvation Army, and as the General announced when he first took office:
"The Salvation Army belongs to the whole world. It knows no nationality as such, all men are the proper objects of its loving service." In this spirit the Salvation Army got to work:

- The General sent Dutch officer lieut-colonel Barbara Luppens to see how the Salvation Army in Germany was faring, showing care and concern even for those who were considered enemies.

- Ambulances were fitted out and the Army started working with the Red Cross, an 'Ambulance Band' was formed of Salvationist personnel to provide music and welcome to the troops.

- Australian and Canadian Salvationists sent Ambulances to both the Western and Eastern fronts.

- The United States sent Salvationists to serve in lots of practical ways, they sewed buttons, mended uniforms, listened to and supported the soldiers, sang, preached the gospel etc and of course the famous 'Doughnut girls' made doughnuts to give the U.S. soldiers a taste of home and help hold together the men's fragile morale.

-Australia, Canada and New Zealand led the way with the appointment of Salvation Army officers as chaplains, the UK and U.S. quickly followed suit. One such chaplain was Brigadier William McKenzie, he was attached to the first brigade of the A.I.F. (Australian Imperial Force); he trained with the men, organised recreation activities, visited the sick and injured and even helped digging trenches. When inevitable casualties occurred he would help identify the dead and write to their families and loved ones. He was a true believer in 'Belief in Action'.

This was a truly mobilised and international Army, separated by borders and conflict but forever linked by love, faith and membership in the family of Christ. A truly unbreakable bond of love, service and charity.

After the war the service continued, despite calls from a world hurting and scarred by war to punish Germany for it's offences, the Salvation Army continued to mobilise around the world providing food, clothes and money to support all that needed it including Germany and her allies.

For me, this is Christianity, this is service, both to man and God. This is the legacy of service that continues today.

I've said it before but the Salvation Army is far from perfect, but this example from history is an ideal to reach for and inspiration for anyone seeking to serve their fellow man, it is practical and efficient but still Christ centred, as it should be.

Service is not just about the big stuff, it's also about the small everyday acts of love and kindness. This is the challenge I want to leave you with, to look out for those everyday opportunities to serve and bless others and to do so not because you have to but out of genuine love, care and concern for each other.

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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Where Did it all begin?

Where did your journey begin. What was it that inspired your journey, your faith & your walk with Christ?

Sometimes I think we can get so wrapped up in the present and where we are now that we lose track of where we've been and the lessons we have learned along the way.

I've been thinking lately about when and where my Christian journey truly began. 

I have been on the Christian journey for some time now. I find myself as a full member in my local Salvation Army Corps. I find happiness and fulfillment there, safe in the knowledge that although things may not always be easy, I'm where I truly believe God wants me. And on the path He wants me to take. I always find myself drawn back in thought and in my heart to the church in the picture above...Aldermans Green Methodist Church in Coventry, UK

I attended this church during a very difficult and confusing time in my life, full of heartache and upheaval. This church showed me stability and opened my eyes to a wider world and a God who after many years I would come to know for myself. I was difficult to live with in those days...arrogant and pretty lost. But it was my time here that laid the foundations of my journey and this place and those great believers that guided me in my early walk will always hold a special place in my heart. Great men and women whose example I carry with me.

Of course the important thing as always is not necessarily where we've been but where we're going.

The entire Christian faith is built on the passing on of what came before...people who have journeyed with Christ guiding, encouraging those that follow... We are part of an ongoing legacy stretching back to Christ. Each of us must take our place in this legacy (I feel like I'm going to start quoting the Lion King). I would not be where I am now if it weren't for those that took time to guide and teach me, & I will forever be grateful for where I came from because it has helped shape who I am today.

So I want to encourage you to think about where you came from and those that walked beside you and guided you, taught you and Inspired you, without ever asking for anything or perhaps even knowing that they Inspired you. 

Think also about where you are now, who you can guide and inspire, sometimes directly other times just by being you, and your example of walking in faith. The kingdom of God will grow or falter because of those that we inspire to be the Church of the future it's members, guardians and leaders.

It would be great to read comments from anyone reading this about your walk with Christ; where you are, where you began, who inspired you, please feel free to comment below.

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Monday, 6 February 2017

Legacy of Death, Destiny of Faith

On 9th March 1966 The Blind Beggar pub in East London witnessed a brutal murder of gangster George Cornell in a gangland shooting by the now infamous Ronnie Kray, one half of the notorious Kray Twins, both violent criminals who terrorised London during the 1960's.

In 1968 both were sentenced to life imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 30 years for the murders of Cornell and Jack McVitie (another gangster) this  was the longest sentence ever passed at the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court, London) for murder

Over 50 years later this pub is still famous as the site of this brutal murder, but there is another lesser known claim to fame of this pub.

William Booth founder of the Salvation Army preached his first open-air sermon 101 years before this murder outside the pub in 1865, which led to him forming the East London Christian Mission, which later became the Salvation Army. A statue of Booth still stands on this spot in memory of this man who was unafraid to stand out from the crowd, to dedicate his life to serving and rescuing his fellow man.

So we have two men, two defining events separated by 100 years; one an act of hate, the other an act of faith...but both events defined each man in their own ways. The Krays sunk deeper into violence and criminal activities and as above paid for it with 30 years in prison. Booth however, when faced with the poverty and need of London's East End found inspiration.
In his own words:

'When I saw those masses of poor people, so many of them evidently without God or hope in the world, and found that they so readily and eagerly listened to me, following from Open-Air Meeting to tent, and accepting, in many instances, my invitation to kneel at the Saviour’s feet there and then, my whole heart went out to them. I walked back to our West-End home and said to my wife:

‘O Kate, I have found my destiny! These are the people for whose Salvation I have been longing all these years. As I passed by the doors of the flaming gin-palaces tonight I seemed to hear a voice sounding in my ears, “Where can you go and find such heathen as these, and where is there so great a need for your labours?”

And there and then in my soul I offered myself and you and the children up to this great work. Those people shall be our people, and they shall have our God for their God.’

I suppose all this is the point... What kind of legacy do you want to leave on the World?
Do you want to be like the Kray Twins...leaving an infamous legacy of violent crimes and cruelty.
Or be like Booth and leave a legacy of service and faith that now spans over 150 years and 127 countries.

Most of us will never know the effect our actions will have the long run, or the lasting legacy we will leave. But it is incredible to think how far the gospel has travelled, how many have been reached directly on indirectly by men and women who listen to God and give their lives to serve Him. People like Booth, Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, John & Charles Wesley...the list goes on, and each of these people simply serve others and preach/preached God's word, safe in the knowledge that He will take their ministries and their efforts and use them as He sees fit.

All we can do is make the most of the time given to us, and decide wether we want to serve or be served. To search and struggle for our own selfish ends, or serve God and each other.

We are part of an ongoing legacy, going all the way back to Jesus Himself... We are walking in His footsteps by spreading His Word and Love, by passing on what we have learned. Let's not be the ones to drop the ball here, let's keep this legacy rolling on, who knows what fruit our small simple acts of faith and obedience will bear, who will be reached that without us may not be. A simple act of faith and kindness could inspire the next William Booth or Billy Graham without us ever knowing.

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Old Cap & Bible

It’s not just fancy headwear, it’s a living breathing expression of who we are, and a reminder of who we serve (and yes, it keeps your head dry)

The old saying ‘To go cap in hand’ talks about humility and approaching others respectfully in the hopes of receiving financial or material games.

The Salvation Army Cap is all together different, it still speaks of humility and approaching others with respect instead of looking for money or material things it encourages those that wear it to approach others in order to serve them, to look for those opportunities where we can be a blessing to those we encounter.

But that’s not the end of the story, of course service to our fellow man is important, but our first, best purpose is the commandment in Matthew 2:37 “Love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Love goes hand in hand with time, attention and fellowship; we must take the time to approach the throne of heaven respectfully and humbly but also expectantly and ready to encounter the living God and His wonders.

Now; I’m going to tell you a secret about my very rarely leaves my house except on official engagements...and if it’s raining outside. Nothing makes me reach for my cap faster on Sunday than a good old fashioned rain storm as I head off to worship. The point is that I trust my cap to protect my head and keep me dry.

In the early days of the Salvation Army one of the practical functions of the cap (and the ladies bonnets, but the less said about those the better) was to offer some form of protection against rocks and other projectiles hurled at these early Salvationists by those that opposed their shaking up of the status quo.

So there is real, practical significance, relevance and proven historical legacy for the old cap. But it’s more than just a glorified hard-hat or shower cap. It makes the Salvationist visible to others, and makes heaven visible to its wearer, grounds us in the things beyond what we can see and keeps our minds focused on our mission and purpose; it is a modern day ‘Helmet of Salvation’.

But all this by itself only goes so far...the cap goes hand in hand with the Holy Bible, a very old book I grant you, far older than the Salvationist’s cap, but if the cap guards the head, the Bible guards the heart. It inspires all the practical faith and service that the cap represents. Without the inspiration and teaching of scripture there are no brass bands, no social service programs, no Salvation Army.

So to all Salvationists, don’t ever be afraid to go ‘cap in hand’ to God, but also remember where it all came from and guard and love your Bibles as you guard and love the Salvation Army with all its traditions, quirks and victories.

For all others reading this, if you see a Salvationist wearing their cap (or not) remember the significance, remember the practical mission of service and love the Church is called to, but don’t forget your first love and your first, best purpose to:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”

-         Matthew 22:37

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