Remembrance and thanksgiving were threads woven seamlessly into the fabric of 127th corps anniversary celebrations at Kettering Corps, in the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland. The occasion, coinciding with Remembrance Sunday in the UK, was richly enhanced by the spiritual and visionary ministry of the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Barry C. Swanson) and Commissioner Sue Swanson (World President of Women’s Ministries).
Their clear, concise Bible messages were received readily and responded to positively – and not just by those who, by the close of the weekend, had knelt at the mercy seat or stood in public recognition of Christ’s love and supreme sacrifice for them.
A busy schedule began with a reception at the mayor’s parlour, where the Chief and World President, divisional leaders Lieut-Colonels Mike and Wendy Caffull, corps officers Major Paul and Lorna Doust and corps representatives were welcomed by the Mayor of Kettering (Councillor Margaret Talbot). Also present was the mayor’s chaplain, Major Richard Cook (corps officer at nearby Rothwell).
Hospitality was to be reciprocated when the mayor and her consort were welcomed to the Army during both the Saturday evening celebration festival and Sunday morning meeting.
The festival featured quality contributions from senior and junior music sections, including the home league singers – whose item was of particular pleasure to their World President. She said God had often used music to grab her attention. Recounting an amusing incident from a music camp in America – where she played cymbals – she taught the spiritual lesson of keeping an eye on ‘the conductor’ and following his lead.
After the band’s rendition of ‘Shine as the Light’, the Chief expounded on verses from John’s Gospel and urged: ‘We must bring God’s presence into dark and dead environments.’
Having returned recently from Bolivia, the second-in-command of the Army’s work worldwide also told the congregation of a new project started by Salvationists in Yauri Chambi, La Paz, to provide a clean, drinking water system for their isolated community. A thanksgiving offering midway through the festival raised nearly £300 towards the project. Proceeds from the corps’s community carol services in December will also support the scheme.
‘Thank you, Lord, for all your goodness through the years of yesterday’ – words of Sunday morning’s opening song – led into prayers for God’s help as the corps sought to be ‘building on what has gone before and moving forward in ways that are relevant’. The inclusion of ‘One Life to Live’ by the singing company enhanced the prayer period.
In his Bible message the Chief called on individuals and nations: ‘Let go of selfish, earthly things and turn to spiritual, everlasting blessings.’ Then, as 11 o’clock approached, the band played ‘Nimrod’ as a prelude to the congregation observing two minutes’ silence. Retired Bandmaster Michael Barratt played ‘The Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’ – as he has for the past 50 years.
He repeated that role during the afternoon remembrance service at the town’s war memorial where the Chief laid the corps poppy wreath. The commissioners then joined the corps officers and band to head a march of councillors, clergy, community groups and services representatives around the town.
The playing of ‘Montreal Citadel’ by the band – with Commissioner Sue Swanson ‘starring’ on cymbals! – gave a sparkling start to the evening meeting, in which testimony brought challenge and blessing.
Having known the pain and heartache of a broken home while in her teens, Sheila Barratt was to experience ‘a wonderful, wonderful day … when Jesus I met’. She said she now knows ‘the healing, comfort and closeness of the Lord’. Geoff Lewis, a car mechanic, told of challenging times in his workaday witness and shared some spiritual insights that come through his job.
As he stood alongside the Chief to receive his bandsman’s commission – presented by a former Bb bass player in the Chicago Staff Band to the youngest tuba player in the corps band – Jonathan Marsh was a visible testimony to talents being dedicated to God. Earlier, in an account of the Army’s worldwide witness, the Chief told how inspired he has been to see the dedication, passion and faithfulness of Salvationists in such places as Africa, Korea, Germany and Japan.
The commissioners also sang their testimony as they introduced a chorus to the congregation – ‘When I remember that he died for me I will never go back’. It was appropriate to Commissioner Sue Swanson’s ensuing Bible message in which she emphasised God’s covenant to all generations.
The spirited singing of ‘I’ll go in the strength of the Lord’ as a concluding anniversary anthem was a fitting act of corporate witness to faith and commitment.
Report by Major Trevor Howes