Parade Ground Battle Ground

The difference I’ve heard many a time is the difference between a parade ground soldier such as you may see standing outside Buckingham Palace and a soldier, for example, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The parade soldier is standing guard ceremonially in the possible occasion that the ‘enemy’ may confront him, but can spend the time looking pretty because he’s not out to look for a difficult shift. Actually, the armed police at the gate are the ones really doing the real protection job. When the soldier changes shift, he returns to the relative safety of the barracks.

The soldier fighting in ‘the trench’ has to be aware of his enemy coming from anywhere, at any time, and is there to secure the nation under threat against the usurped power of bands of loosely networked assassins. He doesn’t have time to sit pretty. Even in his rest time his weapons are by his side.

Interestingly, the parade soldier and the engaged soldier have the same training, have potential access to the same weaponry, and are both active in the army.

The difference is that the location and role of one soldier makes it pretty much unnecessary for him to use his skills, training and weaponry at all. He is simply standing guard over the establishment and the people who are part of the establishment. Potentially, however, the soldier may actually be deployed the next week to the same environment of the other soldier.

The challenge is this…if we accept at all that we as The Salvation Army have to maintain parade ground soldiers at all, do those who are occassionally deployed in that regard actually have the ability to fight in the trench the next day? To what extent do we have warriors as opposed to ceremonials in our ranks?

When I turn my mind to military bandsmen, what you have there are musicians who have a very minimal military training, because they’re very rarely, if ever, in combat. Their role is often ceremonial. I think that only Scotland can claim to have offensive weapons in their military bands in the form of the bagpipe…many an enemy would run a mile at the sound…however, I digress. Will we ever see the return of the non-ceremonial warfare fighting Salvation Army band? I, personally, live in hope, but I’m not sure if its founded on good ground or if its just wishful thinking.

Flicking through reports in many editions of the Salvationist its perfectly clear to see the distinction between ceremonial Salvationism and militant Salvationism. Having said that, ceremonial Salvationism tends to get more space. In one report, a band plays at a civil function, in another a group of Salvationists raises money for new chairs, in another there is hob-nobbing with city officials.

In contrast, there is the reports of a young officer couple who I know personally (younger than me) pioneering a corps in a land in desperate poverty and no concept of what the Salvation Army is, innovative creative arts programmes to introduce children to faith. Perhaps news of a new soldier who was saved through the Army who hasn’t been brought up through the ranks or transferred from another church. But as I said, militancy difficult to spot in the Salvationist!

So…parade ground or battle ground? Soldiers or warriors? Status quo or trailblazing? Sheep-stealing or soul-winning? Beautiful bands or bazooka bagpipes?

6 thoughts on “Parade Ground Battle Ground”

  1. Whilst they may not have much in the way of actual combat training at times of war military bandsmen have traditionally had the role of going out, lightly armed, to bring back the wounded. This is dangerous work and should not be overlooked. Maybe some of our soldiers need to have this sort of role within our Army to avoid the danger of officers who would be willing to sacrifice the enlisted in order to win every battle!

  2. Simple, whether some people like it or not and it seems that some don’t, we are in a strange position of being both a full-on mission movement and a full-on church. In view of this we are called to walk a tightrope of being mission focussed and pastorally focussed. In this situation we need some of our soldiers who are prepared to work on the patching up of those injured in the battle we have. I seem to be reading a lot of cajolling towards militancy within the Army but few seem to be talking about one of our biggest historical failings, the inability to help those hurt or fatigued by the battle recover their strength.The best military fighting forces have always had an attitude of ‘none left behind’. The danger of some of the writing I’m seeing is that it seems to suggest that if you can’t keep up then ‘tough luck’. If we are prepared to leave people behind then I’m not sure that we are fulfilling our dual role of mission and church!

  3. Yep..I’m with you. And we can’t continue under a system where officers have to drive the mission and also have to be the key pastoral carer if thats not how they are wired up. Both things have to be whole corps responsibilites with officers stearing the whole operation, not ‘doing’ the whole operation.For me, authentic militancy will always foster comradeship and a ‘none left behind’ attitude. But comradeship without militancy leads to innefficiency on both levels. A pastoral focus comes from being missionally focussed…or it should. They can never be exclusive…that will be the undoing of the Army.What about the Army that has forgotten how to engage effectively in mission? Thats where the awful tension comes for every officer/church leader who has a heart for the lost (which I hope they all do). The difference is that the ‘found’ person has the spiritual ability to connect, encounter and receive from God and ‘work out their own salvation.’ Whereas the lost don’t. This is where soldiership and discipleship comes in like you say in your blog. If all of our soldiers are discipled in such a way that they are stronger from the beginning, we begin to loose the problem of backsliding. I’ve said many a time that effective discipleship often reduces the need for pastoral care for the slightest murmur in people’s lives.As a long time reader of the blog, I’m sure you are also aware of the pleas I’ve often put forward for every soldier to play their part. That means the soldier-pastor rising up and being realeased to be the soldier-pastor as well as the soldier-evangelist being released in the same way. It also means that we recognise that the officer, or one of the officers in a couple, may not be a pastor.If every soldier were ‘militant’ we’d see what you describe…effective pastoral care alongside active war fighting because thats what a fighting force is. But if all that happening relies solely on me as an officer…God help us!Total mobilisation, at every level, leads to an effective missional community.

  4. Having read your article, the next day I came across the story of Bandmaster Arthur Gullidge and the band piece ‘Divine Communion’. (see Salvationist 3 August 2002 on web). It doesn’t speak directly to the issues you raise, but may provide an interesting (and challenging) shaft of light from SA history. Thanks for the work you put into your blog, which I find very enlightening. An Appreciative Reader.

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