A moment of significance: ordination and commissioning

Event to take place in Cerritos on June 11, 2006.

by Donald Hostetler, Major – 

Tex Sample calls them “rituals of significance”—occasions that have impact because of their effect upon the participant. The popular culture is replete with annual rituals of significance, from the Academy Awards to the Super Bowl to the State of the Union Address. The Salvation Army has its own annual ritual of significance: the ordination and commissioning of new Salvation Army officers.

As with the examples I just cited, commissioning has events of significance that surround the actual commissioning and ordination. We can be distracted from the essential significance of commissioning just as the Academy Awards’ red carpet fashion procession, Super Bowl media hype (or craziness over the commercials), or State of the Union post-mortems threaten to do to those events.

Each of commissioning weekend’s surrounding events has its own significance: commencement honors academic achievement; the Silver Star banquet honors the contribution of forebears to our spiritual development; the appointment service celebrates the initiation of a life of radical submission to the disciplines of officer service. But at the heart of this weekend is the commissioning of new officers.

To understand the importance of commissioning, it is helpful to consider another ritual that takes place outside of public view. One week prior to their commissioning, cadets and auxiliary-captains sign a covenant. This is what that covenant says: “Called by God to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as an officer of The Salvation Army, I bind myself to him in this solemn covenant to love and serve him supremely all my days; to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life; to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends; to maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army, and, by God’s grace, to prove myself a worthy officer.”

Having bound themselves to God in solemn covenant, the officers-to-be await the sign and seal of ordination to ministry and commissioning as an officer in The Salvation Army. It is a significant moment for each individual as they hear the voice of the territorial commander speaking the confirmation that The Salvation Army has vested such enormous authority in them for the ministry of the Gospel in all its dimensions within the ranks of The Salvation Army.

But it is also a moment of significance for The Salvation Army to recognize the renewing influence of new officers added to her ranks. It is a moment of significance for all Salvationists.

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