Affirmations #10 Faith at the margins

10. I believe that we exist primarily for those at the edges and margins of our society, the last, the lost and the least.

I did tell you that I had one to add to the list which I think is crucial. These are our people.

Its interesting to note that when William Booth declared to his wife that he’d found his destiny, he was well established in his ministry, really. He’d been a street preacher…that wasn’t his destiny. He’d been a circuit preacher…that wasn’t his destiny. He’d lead great revival meetings and special prayer meetings…he didn’t declare that was his destiny either.

He declared he found his destiny have shared the gospel with the poor and those at the bottom of the social latter on London’s Whitechapel Road.

Near the end of his life, he said this:
“…the poor are my people. I gave my life to them ever and ever so many years ago. They were my first love, and I shall be true to my bride. It is with the poor that I shall hope to be in the Kingdom, for, although I esteem the rich, it is for their pocketbooks that I care most, because I know that I belong elsewhere”.

The old boy had his head screwed on I think!

But lets go beyond Booth, because we really have to. Biblically, the call to the poor is massive. You can’t read the bible and escape all that Jesus had to say about the gospel for the poor. You can’t just say ‘New Testament’ either, because justice and care for the poor are central to Jewish ethics and sense of community and justice.

Yes, we often spiritualise it as if somehow to get ourselves off the hook and say that ‘well, everyone is spiriually poor.’ Yeah, I don’t disagree, and I certainly don’t think we leave out those who are not poor in our ministry, preaching or outreaching. We take every opportunity to share with anyone. We simply make it our intention to build faith communities amongst the poor, because quite frankly, they are usually the most ‘un-churched’ people and in need of the most redemption (you’ll need to chew on that theologically).

You really need to go to something like and search for ‘poor’ or ‘widow’ or ‘orphan’ or that term that always cracks my son up ‘alien’ and see the response you get.

The next stage is to take the message on board and be like Jesus. We all can probably agree that Jesus spent time with the poor, lots of time. We can all probably agree that its right that the Church should care for the poor. We’re not all convinced that its our job to do the same. How can we be like Jesus and not do the same??

To borrow a quote out of context from William Booth – “Not called? Not heard the call I should say!!”

24/7 Prayer

Its official. Confirmed. I am very likely mad.

Here at Torry we are due to embark on a 24/7 prayer week at the end of August. I have to say that fundamentally is just being obedient to what I feel God is asking of us at this time. Thing is its a prety huge thing but so is the battle we face here in Torry. Although we suspect that some people will come from other places to support, and thats great and desirable, the challenge for us is to re-introduce a rhythm of prayer into the life and mission of the corps…something that isn’t an obvious part of the fabric of our community here.

We’ll be praying like never before out of sheer necessity. Out of a desire for something to shift in our wider community. Out of the need to seek the Lord of the Harvest to raise up labourers for this corner of the vineyard. Out of a heart felt, empassioned desperation to see this place change and the Kingdom to take a stronger foothold.

We see death at work daily on our streets. On the faces of the people who live here, on the children, the adults, the elderly and the youth. We’re surrounded y prisons of addiction, sin, godlessness, fear and hopelessness. Our local authority are good at making our community look pretty and presenable, but at the heart there is a cancer that is eating the vitality out of everything. Our community doesn’t need plastic surgery, its needs complete transfusion and transformation from death to life.

We might be crazy, but we need God. We won’t stand by and let the enemy have his way any longer. Things must change.

While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight-I’ll fight to the very end!

Prayerful and missional living with a passionate persuit of justice and all that the Kingdom will bring is the answer for Torry.

Today’s Round-up of thoughts

Having had a busy day (and week), I’m just rounding up preparation for our meeting tomorrow night. We’re looking at the picture of salvation provided for us in Psalm 27 and I’m just reminded how good and blessed it is to be in the presence of God, especially with God’s people. There is very little more precious than that.

It was wonderful today, at the opening of the Aberdeen Citadel refurbished building, to hear the General’s heart for the world-wide Salvation Army. He is a man who holds the internationalism of the Army close to his heart. As he told of plans to invade Outer Mongolia, and as he confirmed growth in Greece, advancement into Kuwait and adventures into Kathmandu in Nepal, my mind just explodes further as I picture every tribe, every tongue, every nation under heaven actually in Heaven praising the Father. Yet, I’m just as excited about our hopes and plans for expansion in Aberdeen. For now, my heart is set on seeing more Scots in heaven!

It was great this morning to hear from some good friends, fellow officers, in Romania, Captains Ianut and Roxana Sandu. They are the corps officers in Craiova, a city in rural Romania which is primarily ‘Orthodox’. They are having a difficult time spreading their work there as the people generally see those who are not Orthodox as sinners heading to hell, and so you’ll imagine the wall of resistance they face in trying to reach out there. They sent some pictures of the little congregation they’ve managed to raise, mainly of orphan children, and of their work to try and support a nearby orphanage that desperately needs playground equipment…the stuff they have is rusty and un-useable. Simple things we in the west take for granted, even in our most challenging communities. Yes, the challenges these young officers face are challenging to say the least.

At the end of this busy Saturday, I can hear the noise of our public houses spilling out into the streets of Torry…the rabble, the pain, the ‘drowning sorrows’ and no doubt the brokeness mixed with little tinges of celebration. I’m reminded that God’s shelter of salvation is huge, and its great to be under it…but there is yet more room for even more people. God help us all as we do all we can to reach the world for Christ, beginning just where we are.

From the Aberdeen Press and Journal today…

World Leader Will Mark Ceremony
Official opening for Salvation Army centre

By Declan Harte

Published: 13/09/2008

OUTSPOKEN: The world leader of the Salvation Army, General Shaw Clifton, is performing the opening ceremony of the Aberdeen Citadel today.

The world leader of the Salvation Army will today officially open Aberdeen’s newly refurbished centre.

General Shaw Clifton, who has served as a Salvation Army leader in some of the world’s poorest countries, will mark the reopening of the Castle Street premises, which has just undergone a £3.4million facelift.

Speaking yesterday, he addressed the plight currently facing Aberdeen’s homeless community, one of the main focuses of the city’s own Salvation Army branch.

He said: “Poverty is a great evil in the world and there is nothing romantic about it.

“Yet even when people have absolutely nothing, as I’ve seen in Pakistan, they often still show a culture of generosity which warms you to your very being.”

Addressing the topic of the proposed anti-begging bylaw currently being considered by Aberdeen City Council, which would see begging in city streets become a criminal offence, Mr Clifton doubted that such a law would actually be enforceable.

He added: “Why are there beggars in the streets of cities like Aberdeen, in one of the richest countries in the world?

“When the authorities find someone who is forced to beg for money, I want to hear them say ‘I want to help you’ rather than ‘I want to arrest you’.”

Aberdeen’s Salvation Army has had the Citadel base for 128 years, although its future has looked unstable recently.

Plans to sell the building to Peacock Art Gallery were announced in 2003, but soon withdrawn when the Salvation Army decided to stay put.

The makeover, partially funded through selling other Salvation Army-owned properties, took two years as period architectural design had to be preserved alongside the arrival of new facilities.

The worship hall has been converted into a 300-seater auditorium with broadcast quality lighting and sound. A cafe with wi-fi access has also been installed along with new conference rooms, offices and a computer suite.