Back after a brief blog break…it happens now and again but never for too long in my 10+ years of blogging. This week my Facebook feed has been filled with yellow, red and blue. The Salvation Army’s ‘Boundless’ International Congress, celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the founding of The Salvation Army, has been taking place in London. Inevitably, that evokes all sorts of memories and stuff, but also reconnects me with many things that are absolutely still fundamental to my call and the ministry I engage in wherever I am. Good to celebrate those things, always.
Being a former officer and an ex-salvationist is an awkward condition to be in. For me, and I’m quite sure for many others, leaving the Army doesn’t just feel like a ‘moving on’, but it feels like an unpleasant divorce. One party less than amicable, the other party hurt, and yes, feeling shunned at each attempt at return or reconciliation. I’ve lost count of the small conversations ‘up the chain’ I’ve had that have felt as close to ‘shunning’ as it is possible to get. It still, five years on, exposes that juxtaposition of the Army that welcomed me in off the street as a teenager in contrast to now, where it feels as if one is blacklisted somehow. It will take me a long time to get over that. It is hard to say if the day will come when that wall comes down, somehow. Yet, this is the historic underbelly of the movement: many of its shining lights, including some of Booth’s children, were and are ‘disowned’ and left estranged (not that my light is particularly bright, you understand). I don’t know what it is about the movement where that persists. ‘
Boundless: The Whole World Redeeming’ is a tremendous theme for a congress. Its a mission rallying cry that very few followers of Jesus would fail to send off a resounding ‘AMEN’ to. I’d like to see a THQ or IHQ department charged with the mission of sitting down with people like me and saying ‘how can we redeem this one? how can we lessen the pain? is there a path to transform this thing? how can we work on this humanly, with less cold and distant bureaucracy, to at least lessen the sting of estrangement?’ This, after all, is often a big part of the work of a corps officer…patiently building relationships with former salvationists, seeking to restore them to faith and engage them once again in the work of mission.
But until then, I’m one of the many, many, hidden Salvationists…still carrying the gifting, gracing and callings of an officer-soldier into new places, new experiences and new opportunities in God’s Kingdom, knowing that what is impossible with man is very much possible with God. I pray God’s richest blessing upon The Salvation Army, for a real strengthening and renewed sense of mission and calling lived out with a holy passion, as it moves into its next 150 years of following Jesus.