Another “face book”

By Victor Leslie, Lt. Colonel –

For a while, I dwelled in antiquity land. I was not on MySpace or even LinkedIn to the many sites popping up on for social networking. Then my daughter signed me up for Facebook. It took just one post to begin running into old friends, to revive old memories and to learn where the people from my past are now. Facebook immediately fascinated me and began to provide a sense of fellowship, inquiry and connection. Each time I logged in, I eagerly celebrated the rediscovery of friends from the past.

So imagine my bewilderment these last few months when I felt the same kind of response as my team conducted corps reviews and took the time to examine the corps roll books. It was almost like turning on the computer in the minds of the corps council and logging into a literal Facebook session of past and present relationships, all grounded in real life and revealing the human fabric of the corps’ roll. There was genuine animation.

In these hard copy corps roll books was disguised another type of “face book,” where past generations recorded truth, history and human experience with impartiality, fidelity and accuracy. Enthusiastically, we paused for reflection and happily added commentary on the profiles we found. These were more than a catalogue of the forgotten or the forgiven. In a sense, they were photo booths with pictures and profiles tagged for our instruction and enlightenment, entries that provided pattern and meaning in the human experience of a corps.

These registers of salvation and sanctification, birth, dedication, marriage and death brought an appreciation for the historical importance of the time in which people lived and for the relevancy that they carry for today. We did not have to dig deep to realize that people—not statistics—were in these corps rolls. Every leaf had a name, a face, a life changed and a prayer offered by or for someone. These dingy, crumpled, sometimes torn pages did not include posts with “25 Things You Didn’t Know about Me,” or Twitter tweets with every trace and vestige of all that a person has done or thought since their names first appeared in the book. Yet they birthed a range of emotions as they opened the door on the development of a corps community and its people.

On each piece of paper, we discovered a timely record of a unique person, a unique event or a unique response to God. No one questioned or doubted that these hallowed documents were local repositories of love, life, covenant and pastoral care. We considered our diversity and unity, our triumphs and sorrows, our past and even our future. Each stratified record became a platform upon which we could set our feet to inform our future and shape our destiny. And—more importantly—each profile badge was a personalized way to share a positive remembrance of the soul who at some point in time responded to God’s offer of love and grace.

I know it seems peculiar to connect the corps roll book with something like Facebook, but just this month, as I swore in five new soldiers in one of our corps, the joy of discovering the people behind the pages was brought close to home. After the meeting, one of the new soldiers told me that his wife had signed her Articles of War in 1963 in a small town in Texas and now wanted to find out how to get her records transferred. Forty-six years later, someone in Texas looking over a corps roll book may not find excitement in her roll sheet. It may seem to be a mere historical document filed in an inactive section or simply a record of a remnant hurriedly removed from the annals of changed lives. However, to her, she was a soldier who had logged back into our network and was ready to share a personal “face book” entry—a record of the transformative power of Jesus to effect change in people’s lives.

What if we spend the same time we use in searching Facebook to examine instead our own corps directories? Do you think we might discover people lost to God or maybe help reconnect them to God’s love? Is there room for another face book?

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