Sunday, September 30, 2007

Promoted to Glory!

Colonel Bo Brekke.

Not murdered but

Promoted to Glory.

I think all death for a Salvationist, however it happens, is a 'promotion to glory' that is not to say that Bo's death was not a terrible sin but it is to say that for the Christian 'all things work together for good.' Whatever happens, no matter how deep the grief, no matter how wide the scars - in spite of everything - the Colonel, even in his death remained 'more than conqueror'.

However the Colonel's life ended he has gone straight to heaven!

The Colonel was martyred for the stand he took against corruption, Bo stood up against 'sin in the camp' when he suspended his alleged murderer and for that he was killed - I think that 'Promoted to Glory' is definitely a fitting comendation for a martyr.

A quote from an article 'We are the Poor' written by the Colonel, follows:

"The Salvation Army’s mission is to ‘event’ the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our mission is to make the message of Jesus real to people. That has to happen in the context in which people live their lives. Jesus always met people where they were. He never said to anyone, ‘Please change the circumstances of your life and then I will come and have fellowship with you.’"

What better place to 'event the gospel' other than the communities in which we live and where our halls are? (see my previous blog entry).

Peace, perfect peace, when at last death shall o'ertake me;
Peace, perfect peace, shall surround my lowly grave;
Peace, perfect peace, when the songs of angels wake me;
Peace, perfect peace! Peace, perfect peace!

May God bless and comfort those who mourn


Friday, September 28, 2007

Holiness enjoyed

Oh what a wonderful, wonderful day!

Yesterday I arrived in the High Street to sell The War Cry; I went to a café in the town centre. The café is frequented by those people who Booth and Railton would have called ‘working men’. However, these men and women don’t work but survive on an assortment of benefits. I thought it would be good ‘presence evangelism’ to sit with them in full uniform (model C, cap and all).

As I ate my ‘special breakfast’ I overheard a conversation between two of the staff and it became apparent that one of them was a victim of quite terrible domestic violence. Before leaving I introduced myself and offered to do everything we possibly could to help. One of the things that came out of the conversation, was the fact that this lady who probably gets paid ‘cash in hand’ and earns no more than about £400 per month had no phone and had spent the previous night, alone, awake, surrounded by broken glass, terrified and unable to call anyone for help. Later in the day Tracey returned and gave the lady a phone with credit loaded onto it and telephone numbers for local and national support groups. With the phone was a postcard with all our activities listed and our contact details.

Later in the day, whilst collecting, a family of 7 approached me and asked ‘when’s your place open, when can we come and ask questions?” Yesterday was our ‘Pantry’ when we open our hall to the public and sell meals, drinks, snacks and cakes. I arranged to meet the family at 12:30 at the ‘Pantry’. It turned out that the matriarch who was registered disabled and the only child still living at home (a son aged 25 – also disabled) had received 56 days notice the day before, by their landlord, to vacate their home. Two vulnerable people, scared, confused and facing homelessness with no one to turn to but The Salvation Army - all it took was a quick call to the relevant Council department and all fears were allayed, accommodation was offered and an interview at the ‘housing’ was arranged.

Back on the streets a young ‘Goth’ decked out in black with numerous piercings had been eying me for some time with suspicion. I remembered Commissioner Hunter’s advice to ‘collect eyes as well as money’ and smiled at him every time he looked my way. Eventually he came and made a donation and walked off reading The War Cry. Two smart grammar school boys and a businessman also took War Crys – all because the ‘special one’ (Jose Mourinho not Jesus!) stared menacingly from the front cover. What a great evangelical tool the War Cry is.

Whilst I was out with The War Cry, Tracey at the ‘Pantry’ (along with an amazing band of hard working and tireless volunteers) had fed 5 homeless men, spoken to another about a more permanent solution to his predicament and distributed sleeping bags. There are a lot of homeless men in Dartford, most of them with drink or drug problems. Comfort, succour and advice was given and of course the gospel was shared in a very matter of fact way.

On my way home I popped into our local ‘Turning Point’ office, introduced myself and expounded the benefits of working together. In spite of the fact that I was very up front about our evangelical objectives the staff seemed very keen and the idea of a mutually beneficial partnership seemed positive to all.

As I trudged back up ‘West Hill’ towards he quarters I felt elated, nothing really special had happened on that Thursday but it had been a truly wonderful day. I felt so fulfilled, so complete, I was so happy and content I wanted to cry. As I walked and praised God so a tingle began to move across my body, a warm glow from the soles of my feet up to the crown of my head. It was a truly spiritual experience, as real as if someone had laid hands on me and prayed. A little voice deep within stole a phrase from the old song book and said, ‘Andrew this is holiness enjoyed!’

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Birthdays, bands, and reconcilliation...

On Saturday evening I attended a festival to celebrate the 85th Birthday of Ray Steadman Allen.

In 1982 Rosemary (Ray’s daughter) and I got married at The Salvation Army’s Training College in Denmark Hill in London (UK).

Sadly, as with so many things in my life at the time, the marriage ended in failure and we divorced in 1991. However, Rosemary and I have remained good friends. We had two children Ben (23) and Caitlin (20).

On Saturday I took our children to their Grandpa’s birthday bash and sat with the grand old man, his wife Joy and their other daughter the Reverend Barbara Steadman Allen (an Anglican minister) in a box at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon.

I wore my Captain’s uniform, the badge of my calling, while my ex-wife sang in the International Staff Songsters. There was a moving and humbling sense of both reconciliation and forgiveness accompanying the proceedings. There was a definite nailing of the past, a restoration of the years the locusts have eaten and a warm feeling of love, forgiveness and mutual respect in the air (the sort that sometimes only seems to come with age).

The highlight for me was the playing of Ray’s masterpiece – Romans 8. Featuring the tune associated with the words

“In the cross of Christ I glory,Towering o’er the wrecks of time;All the light of sacred storyGathers round its head sublime.”

After an excellent and inspiring evening I went home to my new life with Tracey and marvelled at the wonderful grace of God that can draw life out of death and make all things work together for good.

Then to top off a truly wonderful weekend 5 people knelt at the mercy seat at Dartford in an act of faith in the future and in a spirit of re-consecration.

Sometimes God takes the most promising things in life and subjects them “to frustration…” in the hope that “they will be ‘liberated from bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” God has certainly done this with my life and I give him all the glory.

I cannot think of a time in my entire life when I felt more content or more at the centre of God’s will than I do now.

Love and prayers


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The joy of collecting

I love collecting – dare I say I find it almost as fulfilling as leading somone to Christ!

The following points aren’t all applicable to Annual Appeal but they are all applicable to local collecting, street stands, pubs etc (which is what I’m really talking about). The points are not in any order of importance.
  • Collecting allows me to exercise my responsibility to make my Corps financially self-sufficient. Being on mission support is a little bit like owing your Mother money – if you ring her up and say we’ve bought some new curtains she wants to know why she’s not been paid back first. Financial self-sufficiency gives freedom.

  • Also, if my Corps becomes financially self-sufficient I am releasing funds to help other Corps in need of money.

  • Collecting takes me into the real world – where I should be. When I collect I am vulnerable, often the subject of abuse (and sometimes praise and thanks). Either way it keeps me on my toes.

  • Collecting is evangelism (sometimes verbal evangelism – always presence evangelism). The uniform declares that ‘Mr/Mrs Salvation Army’ is around. (I learnt this from my great friend Alan, who at Ripon, and then North Allerton (and now undoubtedly at Pill) was instantly recognisable to so many in his community as the Salvation Army Officer.

  • Collecting gives me a chance to pray – it’s a bit like standing still prayer-walking. I can target certain places and individuals with my prayers. I can pray generally for the Corps and its mission.

  • Collecting gives me chance to pay back both God and The Salvation Army for the undeserved generosity they have shown me.

  • As a Corps Officer I have some considerable control over how the money I collect is spent and therefore I don’t need to feel guilty that I am collecting under false pretences.

Sometimes I think that if we returned to the principle that we don’t get paid if we don’t raise enough money I think we might prosper more.

The ‘burden’ of fund raising doesn’t distract me from mission it is an integral part of it – hallelujah!

Love and prayers


Sunday, September 16, 2007

"We are an Army mobilised by God!"

I recently read a really exciting account of churches working together, people getting saved, wonderful scenes of divine refreshing. However, this comment, posted by a Salvation Army Officer, had a sting in the tail. The last sentence contained the following comment "uniform is almost a thing of the past" .

On Thursday, whilst collecting in the High Street in Dartford, I had conversations with 5 drunks (all positive - though one began quite aggressively). One lady with mental health problems (who I had helped previously in the week) stood with me for 5 minutes and sang the praises of The Salvation Army. My uniform makes me visible, vulnerable and always available. I also had a conversation with a fellow minister from 'Churches together' who was out shopping; I doubt he was accosted by any drunks?

I love wearing my uniform and I am hardly ever out of it (even on those rare occasions when I limit it to a t-shirt with a red shield on it.) When I am out and about in my parish I want everyone to know who I am and what I stand for. When I pick my daughter up from school parents approach me for advice and help. The other day a man collecting trolleys in a supermarket asked me about TSA and we ended up talking about Jesus and Salvation.

People who would quickly forget me walking past their shop remember the uniform. Some people may mistake me for a traffic warden or a security guard but at least I look different and stand out. Whatever people associate the uniform with anywhere else in the country - in Dartford it is associated with practical love, evangelism and social justice. I sometimes wonder why we as an Army are so quick to surrender what other churches would quickly take up if given the chance – we have a traditional right to carry out loud and intrusive street evangelism, we are welcome in pubs and clubs with Christian tracts, we are free from the restraints of rites and ceremonies, we have a recognisable uniform.

I am all for ecumenism and I would be equally happy to be the Officer at a Salvation Army Church as I am to be an Officer at a Salvation Army Corps but please, please, please let’s not lose The Salvation Army bit. I’m happy to be a Christian, I’m blessed to belong to the body of Christ, I'm overwheled by the generosity of salvation, but I am so glad that God called to me to serve as a covenanted Officer in The Salvation Army rather than a pastor in 'Pioneer', ‘Icthus’ or the ‘New Frontiers’ (great though those churches are). Being a Salvationist for me is the icing on the cake!

We don’t need another 'Pioneer', ‘New Frontiers’ or ‘Icthus’ because we already have those effective and growing community churches within the body - but we do need a Salvation Army! We have a denominational witness to deliver to the rest of the body, we have a prophetic role to play. Let's give all we possibly can to the body and take all we need but not at the cost of diluting our own God ordained brand. Let's not forget our accountability.

Yours set apart, by Christ for the lost, in the Army

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Collecting ditty :-)

This week I have been collecting and collecting and collecting…
To ease the burden I made up the following ditty (to be sung under my breath as I collect)

By the way, the tune is Rachie…

In the name of Jesus I now bind up greed
In the name of Jesus selfish hearts are freed.
In the name of Jesus think less of your self
And in gen-er-os-it-y please share your wealth!
In the name of Jesus pause upon your way,
Put some money in my box today I pray.

Yet much more than money I am hoping for
In the name of Jesus there is much in store.
I can share salvation if you dare believe
Health and hope and hap-pin-ess you can receive.
In the name of Jesus pause along your way
Seek and take salvation – oh be saved today!

Love and prayers


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What's wrong with being a Rotarian?

What's wrong with being a Rotarian?

According to their web page “Rotary International is a global network of service volunteers. It is the world's largest service organisation for business and professional people, with some 1,210,905 members operating in 168 countries world-wide. There are some 58,000 Rotarians in Great Britain and Ireland in 1,845 clubs, helping those in need and working towards world understanding and peace. It’s a fulfilling role, and Rotarians can get involved as much or as little as their time will allow.”

But ‘Salvo Cadet on a mission…” asks “I was just interested in your reasons for declining the Rotary invitation... I know several officers who are part of their local Rotary and find the relationships built there are invaluable... what's your thoughts?”

The following quote is taken from an article I had published in JAC last year:

Rotarians instead of radicals

“Our Officers will make broad their phylacteries and hob-nob with mayors and councilmen and be greeted in the market-place, but God will not be among us” (Brengle)

Now I have no problem with The Rotary Club whatsoever; it is a noble organisation and one deserving of praise. However it is a humanitarian organisation and not a Christian organisation. My concern is that it has over the years become incredibly popular with Salvation Army Officers. I have even known some Officers who have accepted positions within the organisation such as ‘president’ or ‘secretary’. Now if ‘all my days and all my hours, all my will and all my powers’ belong to God and The Salvation Army what time do I have to spare for The Rotary Club? No matter how noble the project is to which I am lending my time how can it be more pressing than one that has God at its heart? Attending a lunch once a month with well-to-do business men may seem like a good way of securing financial support for the Army – but is it the best use of my time? If I am totally honest with myself is my attendance really motivated by fund raising or by the promotion and well being of my own self importance? Indeed if I find myself willing to wear the ‘Inner Wheel’ on my lapel but shrink from displaying a Crest or a Cross is that not evidence of serious inner betrayal?

My purpose is not to knock Rotarians (be they Salvationists or otherwise), nor I am saying that to be a Rotarian is a sin – far from it! My purpose is simply to ask whether there is any risk to our commitment if we give in to the temptation to divide our loyalties. In addition, is association with such groups likely to lead us into materialism? Are we more likely to judge ourselves according to the world’s standard rather than God’s?

There is however a much more serious threat posed to Officers through links with humanitarian groups such as Rotary. Over familiarity with the world can lead us into deeper and more dangerous associations. Like a man who smokes ‘pot’ for recreational use it is easy to slip into ‘hard drugs’, just so, these innocent memberships can lead us into the clutches of secretive and more devious societies. History – albeit largely unwritten history – shows that The Salvation army has always struggled to maintain its independence and its impartiality when courting commerce.”

Incidentally O&R’s for Officers seems to recognise the need for care when joining secular clubs etc when it says in Volume 2 – Procedures, Part 9 - External Relations Chapter 1 - Governments, Public Authorities and other Agencies. Paragraph 7:

“Membership of service clubs (Rotary etc) is governed by approval from the territorial commander.”
Each to his own!

Love and prayers


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Stuck record...

I don't want to sound like a stuck record but...

It’s the end of week one and I can honestly say that I cannot think of anything else I would have rather do or anywhere else I would rather be than the Corps Officer of Dartford Corps.

To say I have thoroughly enjoyed my first at Dartford would be an enormous understatement!
The excitement, variety, challenge and optimism that covenanted Officership delivers cannot be equalled anywhere in the world. This week...

  • I met a confused elderly lady who wants a fridge

  • a recovering alcoholic who wants more than just food (hallelujah!)

  • delivered a business plan to DHQ for much needed hall improvements (not just aesthetics but improvements that will increase our mission capabilities)

  • came up with a strategy to make the Corps financially self sufficient by Spring 2008

  • led a two hour roller coaster Corps Council meeting,

  • did two much needed pastoral visits,

  • chased up THQ about IT,

  • collected for an hour at ASDA (Wal-Mart for those over the pond!)

  • Spoke to a lady whose husband wants to trace his lost Father,

  • shredded about a ton of obsolete filing

  • and introduced myself (via email) to the other ministers in the area.

I am so happy, so certain that I am in the right place and that God is here and I am only just starting to warm up.

We are going to have revival at Dartford (not just the SA but all the churches), I know it, and I feel it in every fibre of my body and every pulse of my soul. Am I making myself a hostage to fortune by saying that? No! I’m simply expecting God to deliver – and he will!

Watch this space.

Yours set apart by Christ, for the lost, in the Army.