Category Archives: The Salvation Army

God of the Poor

20180916_170548It was a good weekend in Winnipeg. We welcomed another crop of cadets who will now go on to be trained to be Salvation Army officers. They are at the beginning – us, well I feel increasingly like we’re near the autumn of our journey. Strange how that feeling overtakes you as you see friends retiring – or dying (too young) and you realize just how quickly the years are passing by. Now don’t take that as some somber statement. It’s not meant to be, it’s just that the contrasts do show up from time to time and I realize that there are people who are sitting on this platform who weren’t born when we started our SA journey.

Having said all that, I was really taken by the song we sang a few times over the past few days as we went from celebrating the new session to wrestling with the complex and challenging issues that we, as a denomination are facing.  The words are strong and meaningful and unlike some of the trite stuff that makes up our singing (at times) this has song has a depth that is not unusual in Graham Kendrick’s songs. Listen and enjoy.

If The Salvation Army has a calling, it is to be the people who reach the poor….so God of the Poor just fits – don’t you think?


A time of blessing

Before I became a Salvation Army Officer I was going to be a professional photographer. So in some regard, I should be embarrassed by the quality of this shot! So many things wrong with it, from focus to composure to balance…. oh my. But here it is.

I include it because in my last post I said I would tell some of the wonderful stories of ministry.  And quite honestly there are more of these moments and the tough ones. The difference is, the comments intending to hurt seem to be like velcro! They stick so much better than the positive comments.

This was from our first aboriginal round table which we did at The Salvation Army’s camp in northern BC. It was a wonderful combination of cultures and a great reminder to me, and to the those in attendance, that while the indigenous community might be different, it is by no means inferior – and in fact I suspect in many ways it is superior.

Those of us who come from the history of conquering and colonizing need to get to a point of confession, that while we might personally have hurt or stolen land, we are the heirs to this type of behaviour. We possess that which was given wrongly. Time and economics might not be able to restore all, but our confession to this and our admission of that history are important.

This photo, therefore, represents one of those “best moments” of ministry as we found ourselves in partnership with some truly remarkable people. I will look back upon this poorly taken picture with a heart of gratitude for this ministry opportunity.


The lost are at church too

I came across a Twitter feed that pointed to an article by James Ross, a pastor who, like me, writes about his family, faith, and church. The article caught my attention because of the title and nature – you can read it here. It did get me thinking about my own experience in leading a congregation, and some of the ways people reacted to our leadership, our family and our choices.

I am hesitant about creating an image that The Church is a bad place or a place where only hurtful things happen. Far from it. Our experiences were filled with joy, faith, God changing, loving, generous people.  We saw lives changed and families healed. So I will endeavour to follow up this blog with some of those stories.

The book of James points out that we should trust God with all our problems – health, family, sin, relationships. So that’s the point I would make – in the midst of hurtful or dumb things said to us, we believe that God is at work, in us and through us. Sometimes God’s people, caught up in their own issues find the pastor a good target.  We love them anyway and pray they find healing for their own needs.

So here goes, things said to us over 20 years of congregational leadership:

  • following a strategic planning session with our church leaders  – “I suppose that this is good but I don’t see you as being able to lead us through this”
  • following a lovely Sunday morning service and while shaking my hand at the door – “you’re an idiot”
  • in front of the church leaders, and said by a man who we suspected was taking money from the youth group funds “I don’t trust you – you have no integrity”
  • while dealing with a man accused of inappropriate behaviour with children – “I am going to sue you and this church”
  • while visiting a dying member of the congregation “we don’t want you to do the funeral, we’ve called (my predecessor)”
  • while struggling to make ends meet on what was a meager salary and benefits, told that I was lucky because the denomination “looks after you. You could never survive in the real world”… of course somehow I use to live in the real world, working, paying bills, arranging my life for service to others as well as holding down a real job and commuting.

Now that’s not the whole story…. our children received less than kind compliments as did Wendy and yet we believed God called us and sustained us through it all.

So if you’re the member of a congregation – encourage your leaders.  If you’re the leader of a congregation – love your people and be encouraged and strengthened by what God is doing around you and through you every day.

Positive stories to follow!