Gowans inspires, challenges, convicts, entertains
CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL BECOMES AN ARMY HALL
BY ROBERT DOCTER –
Crashing chords and triumphant fanfares echoed through the Crystal Cathedral as over 2,000 Salvationists and friends assembled to welcome the Crossbearers session of cadets and hear the Army’s international leaders, General John Gowans and Commissioner Gísele Gowans.
Joined by the Army’s national leaders, Commissioners John and Elsie Busby, Commissioners David and Doreen Edwards led the massive congregation in an outpouring of joyful song and praise. Youth choirs, bedecked in yellow, red and blue from throughout Southern California, lined the long fountain and aisles of the Cathedral and added their voices to the celebration. Just prior to Edwards’ introduction of Gowans, the “Western Brass,” assembled by Territorial Music director Ivor Bosanko, performed his Fanfare for a General along with the cathedral pipe organ.
Derek Flinn, along with two other junior soldiers, presented flowers and personally welcomed the Gowanses back to the West. “Hi General,” Flinn said. “Welcome back. Most of us weren’t even born yet the last time you were here, but we’re praying for you and hope you’re praying for us. Have a great time in California.”
Gísele Gowans, in responding to the warm reception noted that she and her husband had spent five wonderful years “in this beautiful part of the world.” She expressed pleasure in seeing so many old friends and said: “It’s a great joy to welcome cadets, and we pray we will all find new energy and commitment in our work together. May God bless us all.”
Edwards introduced Major Dolores Rivitt (R) to the audience as the newest member of the international Order of the Founder, an honor bestowed on her during the earlier officers councils for the dedication she has shown to the people of Alaska.
In his first official duty as the newly appointed Territorial Youth and Candidates Secretary, Captain Brian Bearchell introduced the 28 Crossbearers to the territory by noting that as Salvationists, we should all be cross bearers. “The average age of these 28 cadets is 31 years. They come from 6 different countries, from 12 states. They bring with them 19 children and a wide array of different professional and academic preparation. I proudly present to you,” Bearchell said to Edwards, “28 soldiers who have taken up the challenge and followed God’s call to become officers in The Salvation Army and Crossbearers in the cause of Christ.”
Commissioner Gísele Gowans addresses attendees at the welcome of cadets.
In accepting the session, Edwards expressed deep appreciation to Bearchell’s predecessor, Majors Rudy and Judy Hedgren for the significant work and effort they demonstrated in getting the session ready for acceptance and introduction to the territory. Then, to the cadets, Edwards stated: “You are the first session to be trained in the new millennium. Your name speaks of sacrifice, suffering and shame, but to you it speaks of love and compassion.” As the session flag was brought forward, Edwards said: “Look at that flag. It is the same as any other Army flag except it has written on in Crossbearers. May it ever be so that you carry that cross as you share Christ’s love in your own hearts.”
Training Principal and Crestmont College President Lt. Colonel Douglas O’Brien prayed for the cadets that they might have the desire to “become like Jesus.”
The cadets then sang a newly composed session song with lyrics by Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien and music by Bosanko.
Gowans message of the evening was highly thought provoking and stirred considerable discussion among many in attendance. Some were delighted to hear a challenging message that focused on mankind’s positive potential in relating to God, motivated by a strong, on-going spiritual connection. Others began to wonder if it introduced a variation in doctrine somewhat different from that contained in the Army’s fifth doctrine which firmly states all mankind is “totally depraved” as a result of our first parents’ fall.
Gowans focused on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 3, verse 16. “Don’t you know that you yourself are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? From this and from the reality that all mankind is made in the image of God, Gowans concluded that “there is a little bit of God even in the worst of us, and because God is spirit, He can relate to that little bit of God within us. He noted that we tarnish that little bit of God we reject it we bury it deeply until it is difficult for anyone to see
“You can have more compassion, be more forgiving, reveal more tenderness, show more tolerance, reflect more sympathy, seek more understanding. You can have more love in your relationship with others. God is a bouquet of spiritual qualities, the pre-eminent of which is love and you are God’s temple.”
Continuing, Gowans reminded the audience that God is in you even in the most evil among us …where that spirit of God within was thrust into dormancy and neglected, even there the goodness that has been long buried can be found.
“Where is this goodness living in you? in your thoughts, in your feelings in your behavior. Recognize you may have buried deeply the God within you. But God is still at work there. A little bit of goodness is brewing within each of us.
“The atheist might say: ‘no one who is really bright can believe in God.’ But I have many atheist friends and one of them became intrigued with the personalities of the Army’s founders, William and Catherine Booth. He asked me if he could write about them, and I encouraged him. He soon discovered that he couldn’t limit his book to only the founders, but had to explore the Army’s reason for being. The product was Blood and Fire.
“He was interviewed before a large Army gathering and the interviewer asked him to say whatever he chose to the group. He said: ‘Salvation Army be what you were called into being to be, and do what you called into being to do and don’t apologize for it.’
“Do you think,” Gowans asked, “that God abandons the heathen? No no he’s there. God is in you if there is any sign of goodness within you. God breathed life into man and gave him a living soul.
“This goodness is constantly being assaulted by badness from the outside. We call that badness Satan. He tries to take the goodness out of us and kill it off. Even Paul says ‘every time I try to do good, evil confronts me.’
|CROSSBEARERS SESSION SONG
Creation in turmoil, in need
Committing my strength
Surrounded by people in
While others observe in
Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien
“You know this conflict between ‘God in me’ and ‘evil around me’. Recognize the God in you and in the world around you. He is not only present in the small way in you there is love out there in the infinite compassion of a loving God. His love has no limit, and that infinite love can strengthen the goodness within us.
“God is spirit and He can travel invisibly. His goodness can reach the goodness in you. This is the Gospel the good news. We can open ourselves to the infinite beauty of God, and if we open ourselves to him, he enters. All you have to do is open the door.
“Jesus had many names for the Holy Spirit, but one my favorites is comforter. A comforter is a ‘reinforcer’–it reinforces that goodness within me. In the battles of life, there are reinforcers, and the Holy Spirit comes where ever invited–wherever asked he will strengthen and fortify.
“When did you last seek reinforcement? I ask every day. He won’t force himself upon you. He stands at the door and knocks.”
GOWANSES PARTICIPATE EXTENSIVELY THROUGHOUT THE WELCOME WEEKEND
Following moving words by Colonel Philip Needham and Commissioner Edwards, Gowans spoke at the ‘inauguration’ of the new Crestmont College and urged continued development of education within all officers and soldiers committed to the Army.
Sunday evening at the Pasadena Tabernacle, Gowans spoke eloquently of the power of “regret” to limit us, to separate us, to minimize our relationship with God. We can choose to live with the pain of regret or escape it by making amends.
At the employees and officers chapel service at territorial headquarters, Gowans noted that while there are many different forms of work, we are all engaged in the same service. We all have a contribution to make. “The miracle of God to man is the way he uses people with different gifts to accomplish His goal,” Gowans said. “It’s a marvelous thing to feel that God is part of the things we do.”