Chief of the Staff retires

First woman Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Robin Dunster, saluted for 40 years of service.

The General presents Commissioner Robin Dunster with a certificate and brooch recognizing her 40 years of service as an officer. [Photo by Paul Harmer]

The Salvation Army’s first woman Chief of the Staff—Commissioner Robin Dunster—celebrated her retirement at a colorful, vibrant, emotional and dignified ceremony, in which General Shaw Clifton said he was conducting the retirement of a close colleague and a much valued prayer partner.

The salute at the Staines Corps (UK Territory) on Saturday, April 24, 2010, attracted a capacity crowd from many parts of the world. The General said the appointment in 2006 of a woman as Chief of the Staff (the Army’s second-in-command) was historic. “Commissioner Dunster has graced that high appointment in every way,” he said. “It is fitting that we honor her today. She has been an outstanding Chief of the Staff and will be most sorely missed.”

Prior to presenting Dunster with her retirement certificate, the General outlined many of her outstanding characteristics, including her love and understanding of the Army, while not being blind to its weaknesses; her belief that God still uses the Army to fulfill his purposes; her loyalty, ability to bring out talents in others, fascination with the cultural variety that is the modern Army, and wide knowledge of Army personalities and officers. The General also expressed gratitude for Dunster’s close and capable attention to the business matters of the Army. He has been especially pleased to have her support in advancing women leaders within the Army and is thankful for her excellent role model as a woman in ministry.

In her response Dunster said, “I wish everyone here really knew everyone here. If you did you would know stories of great fortitude amidst political strife, lootings, liberation struggles and war; real determination in times of personal and family crises; beautiful courage in the face of grief and loss, and the confronting and overcoming of failures and disappointments. You would also know stories of faithful service in every corner of The Salvation Army world; compassionate ministry at home and abroad; amazing endeavors of unsung heroes and extraordinary exploits never reported.”

She said she was grateful for the trust in her that led the General to appoint her as Chief of the Staff. She especially thanked her support officer, Lt. Colonel Edna Williams, for her friendship, loyalty and encouragement.

Speaking of the various experiences and people who have contributed to her life, Dunster said, “All of these influences prepared me to forever bear the name of our training session—Victorious.”

At this point a session mate stood and began to sing the sessional song, soon joined by 21 others from Dunster’s training days at the International Training College, Denmark Hill, London.

In her Bible message based on Romans 8, Dunster urged all present to be conquerors in Christ. “In every situation we know that nothing can separate us from the risen Christ who intercedes for us.”

A feature near the beginning of the retirement salute was the recognition of Lt. Colonel Edna Williams’s extended service and support of the Chief of the Staff.

The service featured music contributions from parts of the world where Dunster had served—Africa, The Philippines, United Kingdom and Australia. The Regent Hall Band (UK) provided support and the Staines Young People’s Singing Company sang two songs.

In her concluding prayer, Commissioner Helen Clifton (World President of Women’s Ministries) thanked God for the lives of Commissioner Dunster and Lt. Colonel Williams and for the influence they have had in the lives of many people and prayed that more and more people would give themselves totally to God.

From a report by Major Laurie Robertson

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