A musical rendition of holiness
By Christin Davis
Brengle: My Life’s Ambition, a Saturday evening musical production at Commissioning 2011, told the story of Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle featuring a cast of members of the Ambassadors of Holiness Session in 12 musical numbers and 10 scenes. Lt. (then Cadet) Joel Boyd played Brengle in his 20s. Lt. Col. Eddie Hobgood, program secretary for the Southern Territory, wrote and composed the musical, and played Brengle in his later years.
“This is a story of a man’s journey of surrender,” said Director Joy Lee, creative arts director for the Western Territory. “We can lose focus while we serve. Our motivations can be tainted. We want success. We want recognition. We have our own ambitions.”
The play depicted Brengle’s desire to be rich and famous before discovering that his destiny lay in the ministry of The Salvation Army. Today, Brengle is considered the Army’s leading teacher on the doctrine of holiness.
“I really felt like in some ways I could relate to Brengle,” Boyd said. “As I portrayed his struggle for holiness, I was reminded of deep times of soul searching and pleading with God to purify my heart.”
Lee said the musical is a good reminder that God can use man when he surrenders his own ambitions.
“He has his doubts about his calling, but in the end, he remains faithful to God,” Lee said. “I think that a lot of people can identify with that struggle and at the same time find hope in the victory that they have in Christ.”
Brengle’s great-granddaughter, Marte Brengle, attended the performance with her brother Richard Brengle at the suggestion of her husband’s fellow Boy Scout volunteer—a Salvationist.
“What a gift, and what a joy to see such a gift expressed so gloriously on the stage,” she said.
Though Marte Brengle didn’t know Samuel and Lily, she was close to their son and her grandfather, George.
“I feel confident in saying that my grandparents, my father and his sisters would have loved this show,” Brengle said. “I think my father was very much like his grandfather. Although, he went into teaching rather than preaching.”
Brengle said she grew up hearing of many of the stories that were depicted in the musical as all of her paternal great-grandparents were Salvationists.
“It wasn’t until I started doing genealogical research of my own that I learned more about Lily,” she said. “I think if not for Lily, there would have been no Samuel.”
The musical—with music directed by Neil Smith, territorial music director, and orchestrations by Stephen Bulla—even impacted a staff member at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.
“One came with tears in his eyes saying that this was a production that equaled—if not exceeded—many of the professional groups that came through the center,” Lee said. “I believe he said this not because we are the best talents in the world, but because there was a deeper, higher message communicated that night.”
Before the musical’s debut in the West, the stage hosted the Trailblazer Award recipients, the six-time Bible Bowl champion team from Ft. Collins, Colo., and the 2011 Service Corps teams.