First Former Officers Retreat held

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Acknowledging the former officers in its ranks, the Western Territory held its first Former Officers Retreat Oct. 3-5 at Redwood Glen Camp and Conference Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California with 32 former officers and members of the territorial personnel department.

“It was a sort of reunion, not of entire sessions, but of many sessions spanning decades,” said Major Jeff Martin, territorial education secretary. “Old wounds received soothing balm and veterans who suffered through their individual battles now found comrades among some of those who they never stood with in the salvation war.”

Personnel Secretary Lt. Col. Doug O’Brien provided messages with reminders that we sometimes see and yet do not understand, just as the disciples saw Jesus break the bread and fish to feed thousands and yet they still did not understand.

“There are layers of relationships in The Salvation Army, and positions and dynamics change,” O’Brien said prior to the event. “We have former officers who feel hurt, misunderstood, wronged, and we’d like to take the opportunity for restoration and to explain how things have changed.”

Tony Hussey, a former officer who remains active at the Las Vegas Citadel Corps, participated in the committee that organized the event. He resigned to recover from an addiction after spending 10 years as an officer. Now an attorney, he works as a personal financial manager. At his corps, he directs the songsters and plays in the band, and also leads a Bible study at the nearby Adult Rehabilitation Center.

I thought the retreat was an excellent start to a new relationship between the Army and its former officers,” Hussey said. “I have to commend the Army, and Lt. Col. Doug O’Brien in particular, for the sensitivity to the formers and their apprehension. One very unusual aspect was that the active officers who were at the retreat did not wear their uniforms at all. While it may have been a small gesture, it made the point that the retreat was to benefit all who were there.”

Hussey said beyond the musical fellowship and devotions, much of the group filled the onsite cafe late into the night talking about individual lives and shared experiences.

He said, “In my opinion, it was the beginning of a movement that could grow and be immensely useful to the Army and to the hundreds of formers that are in the Western territory.”

Comments 1

  1. Several other Territories have shared fellowship with former officers, having met annually on regional and national basis, for more than 50 years or more. Some are in the process of planning their first ever event with the USA East planning its second, but in a revised format. The programming and promotion of a ‘formers’ retreat are highly unique. Consequently, the announcements and promotional pieces (invitations) need to be created to appeal to a very diverse audience. Many ‘formers’ have had little or no contact with the SA for many years, by choice, and to draw them back into what booth called the family, in speaking of ex-officers, demands a convincing, compelling and conciliatory message. See William Booth’s statement about the ex-officer in The Officer journal below…
    The FSAOF, a fellowship of more than 1,000 former officers who’s representatives provided initial input to the organisers of the WT, but were later considered irrelevant in the planning, have written a ‘How to” list of instructions focused specifically on a Vision and Mission statement on the varied elements one might want to achieve through a ‘formers retreat’. Some of these factors were shared with the WT organizers but later ignored.
    A time of reunion is a ‘given’ and the easiest to address and achieve, but the more important factors of reconciliation spiritually and with the Army should be of utmost focus in the planning process. Motives such as reconciliation, restoration and renewal might provide direction for future use and for those Territories currently planning their first ever retreat.
    The brief ‘Organising a Former Officer Retreat” is available to any and all. You need not be a former officer nor a member of the FSAOF.

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