Gowans joins Tab celebration

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GENERAL JOHN GOWANS (R) speaks with Cadet Leslie Spoutsa during the Heritage Conference at Crestmont College.

Celebrating 115 years of The Salvation Army in Pasadena, 117 years as the Los Angeles Citadel, Los Angeles Tabernacle, Hollywood Tabernacle and 20 years as the merged Pasadena Tabernacle, current and former officers, soldiers, advisory board members and friends threw a great four-day party. The 450-500 celebrants were joined by a former Southern California divisional commander who went on to become the Army’s 16th General.

General John Gowans (R) and his wife, Commissioner Gisèle Gowans, remained vigorous through a strenuous four days in which the couple spoke during more than 15 major programs and demonstrated a continuing commitment to the premise they introduced as divisional leaders that “people matter most.”

During a ministerial luncheon involving scores of Pasadena ministers, Gowans responded to questions from the ministers concerning the Army’s role in world today. He noted that the Army is identified in different ways depending on how it impacts different localities. He underscored the Army’s consistent mission in the world over more than a century.

Chicago Staff Bandmaster, Bill Himes, O.F., joined the Gowanses for the celebration and conducted a number of his own compositions during the Tabernacle Band’s annual Thanksgiving Festival held at the Lake Avenue Congregational Church before approximately 750 music enthusiasts, including the Gowans, and territorial and divisional leadership.

The entire Tabernacle facility revealed a commitment to the histories of the two merged corps that came together two decades earlier. Ruth DeGregario had assembled a marvelous collection of historic pictures dug from trunks and albums by large numbers of people. The gymnasium was miraculously transformed into a large, posh banquet facility. A corps history was compiled and written by CSM Robert Docter. The 100+ page book, titled Soldiers All, contains pictures and little known facts of the two corps over the century of service they provided. The book is available for purchase through the Tabernacle office.

The entire event was orchestrated by Bill Flinn along with a twenty member committee.

A family gathering

On Friday evening the corps family, past present and future, assembled for a service of praise and worship. They were joined by Commissioner Linda Bond, territorial commander, and Lt. Colonels Al and Sherrill Van Cleef, divisional leaders. Neither the Tabernacle band nor the world-renowned songster brigade were on duty that evening.

Everyone came to worship. Following a period of praise and song led by the Corps’ Impact Band, Gowans spoke on a passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Paul, in writing to that struggling, argumentative, divided little church, told of the problems and troubles within his heart because of some harsh letters he believed he had needed to write them. He described his feelings of depression, self-criticism and doubt, and then said: But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but by the comforts you had given him. (7:6)

“Paul moved from worry to tranquility in no time at all,” Gowans said. He then explained that, sometimes, there seemed to be two kinds of Christians. When you see one coming you say to yourself: ‘Look out – here comes trouble.’ And when you see the other, you say: ‘Oh – here is a God-send.’

“Every Christian should be a God-send for someone, for we are called to be ‘God-sent’.”

Then, in a series of wonderful little stories he told of how individuals moved through their pain and doubt and became God-sends to one or two, to entire corps, to an entire territory. He spoke lovingly to large segments of the congregations who had returned to the corps for the celebration after years ‘elsewhere.’ “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a prodigal came home and the saints gained new inspiration.”

He talked of his own “dark nights of the soul,” and revealed how the pain stimulated his creative expression and gave depth and meaning to his own compositions. “The Lord has made provision for the day of despair,” he said. “It’s called ‘The Holy Spirit’.” Songster Barbara Allen then stepped forward and sang the marvelous melody and lyrics of Gowans’ Holy Spirit – and the altar was open.

Sunday morning worship

Magnificent music enriched the sacred moments of Sunday worship. The Tabernacle Songsters called the congregation to worship with the composition Holy is He in which they participated with the songsters in a climactic rendition of the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy. Bandmaster Bill Himes led the Tabernacle Band in his own composition, Procession to Covenant.

Captains Edward and Shelly Hill assisted General Gowans as he enrolled new soldiers. With the congregation, the Tabernacle praise team reminded all that There is a Redeemer and called each to Rejoice.

In his remarks, Gowans began with a statement of dramatic reality: “We all go through life living, on occasion, in denial. The danger in this – even the tragedy in this occurs when we fail to accept God’s truth and live without the grief of the sin within us, There is little hope for those who will not feel the pangs of separation from God.
“Christianity is an offer – an offer of the gift of pardon. If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we deny
our sin, there is no hope. There is no feeling of guilt. Such individuals believe they are the ‘master’ of their complete destiny. We deny any guilt. But something continues to gnaw at us – for, in that state, we are recognized by our misery, our unhappiness with ourselves. (Somebody here needs to hear that.)

“Sometimes we find ourselves asking forgiveness over and over. The Gospel promises us power if we seek it. It is supposed to be a beautiful life – filled with love, and peace, and joy – with honesty and purity and graciousness. Christianity is an offer. Where there is little power there is little usefulness and no joy. Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this – that he lay down his life for his friends. Jesus offers friendship if we do as he commands. I no longer call you ‘servants’ … instead I call you ‘friends’.

“Friends of Jesus are about the business of ‘saving souls – making saints – and serving a suffering humanity.’ It’s a partnership with Christ. Christianity is an offer. Stop being in denial. You have not because you ask not.

As he concluded, the “offer” was accepted by many who sought and found a new relationship with God. Following a beautiful time of prayer together, former corps officer Lt. Colonel Richard Love led the congregation in the Founders Song, the Chief Secretary, Lt. Colonel Donald Bell offered a closing prayer, and Dr. Ronald Smart, formerly a director of music in the Tabernacle led the congregation in the traditional benediction he initiated over 30 years ago and is still part of the worship.



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