All in all, I remain somewhat of a lost soul. By that I mean I still feel keenly the sense of being unattached to any particular ‘order’ of folks in my post Army days. You may not think that is important, but having spent a significant amounts of my life in an Order of Salvationists in The Salvation Army, its difficult to readjust to life ‘on your own’. Now, if you asked any Salvationist, they probably wouldn’t recognise the term ‘Order of Salvationists’ but as I’ve often commented, The Salvation Army works best when seen not as ‘church’, but as a neo-monastic order, complete with a rule of life, commitment to the poor, evangelisation of the world and to a life of holiness and discipleship…and hey, even a habit! All were united through ‘the Articles of War’ or ‘The Soldier’s Covenant’, and some of them were Officers, sharing an officer’s covenant. Basically, my life was defined and shaped by belonging to those Orders of Salvationists and when not distracted by the cumbersome ecclesiastical nightmare that The Salvation Army has become, it was helpful to my spiritual formation and life of mission. Its because of all this I still have a weird attachment and yearning for my ‘habit’ and my ‘flag’. Weird, I know.
There are many things that make the return to those days either undesirable, infeasible or difficult at this time, even if I wanted to. I didn’t say all that to open the conversation yet again about my return. That’s fairly settled in my mind…or rather has been settled for us. But it doesn’t change my sense of dislocation.
I do have a personal rule that I’ve shared before here. One which takes something of my previous rules in combination and which simplifies and redefines them for my current settings. It is a lonely path by one’s-self, however. I’ve looked at various other ‘Orders’, each with varying hoops, consequences and outcomes and haven’t felt 100% led to move forward with them.
There isn’t really a conclusion to this blog…I haven’t come up with a big plan, yet, my life is full of irony, really. I spend my life these days asking the folks at Trinity ‘What is God calling you to do? And how can we help you do it?’ and yet I’m not quite able to process the question fully for myself. I empathise with Joseph, Jacobs son…the one given dreams over many years, dreams which he pretty much had to mull over for many years before they came into play. Suffice to say, that still leaves me out in the cold with no firm framework and no clear sign as to whether God will ‘come through’ on these or whether they will remain unrealised dreams. I don’t, at this moment, see how the shift will come, how it will begin to make sense or how it will play out, but I’m in for the long haul and will wait on God’s timing.
2 thoughts on “Orderless”
‘The Salvation Army works best when seen not as ‘church’, but as a neo-monastic order, complete with a rule of life, commitment to the poor, evangelisation of the world and to a life of holiness and discipleship…and hey, even a habit!’
A thoughtful post, Andrew, and I feel for you in that sense of searching that you are exhibiting. One day at a time, I guess, is a good rule for us all. Much of what you say is common to other groups, as well, and to non-churchy groups at that eg. the military. Many service leavers have a lasting feeling of being unable to belong anywhere else, fully. It’s called being institutionalised. I’m not sure what the cure is for Christians, except to learn the new habit of deriving one’s sense of belonging from the Kingdom rather than from one particular branch of the Church.
By the way, when you say that the Army works best when seen not as a church, the definition you then outline sounds perfect for… the church! Except for the ‘habit’! Oh, and the ‘neo-monastic’ bit, though it could be argued that the Church is quite good at withdrawing from the world instead of being salt and light etc!
Blessings on your journey.
Thanks Louis. Thoughts of institutionalisation did cross my mind when I was reading this, particularly remembering the experiences of soldiers I met through prison work, people who couldn’t readjust to life in civvy street. I confessed my institutionalisation as I was leaving the Army.
As you know yourself, when you have a calling to ‘ministry’ one has to find one’s home…its not the case of just turning up at any church and saying ‘I’m a minister of the gospel, please give me a congregation.’ But more than that, for me, I guess its not so much that problem…the Lord has provided me a great avenue for service. I guess what I’m saying is that one sometimes lacks the camaraderie, the shared common vision, the commitment to similiar vision and shared life discipleship, thats all.
With regards new-monasticism, it is quite unlike ‘old monasticism’. Much more like the celtic monasteries of old where bands of missioners were sent out from minsters of learning, study and worship for the evangelisation of the communities surrounding. Each missioner sharing that call to the inner life with God, a commitment to community and feet ready for the road. Worth exploring what new-monasticism is saying helpfully to the church in these days in many ways.