by Major Chick Yuill –
Endings and beginnings are always bound together. The end of the 20th century is the beginning of the 21st; the end of school is the beginning of the world of work; the end of being single is the beginning of marriage; the end of a pregnancy is the beginning of bringing up the baby; the end of our working lives is the beginning of retirement; and, for the Christian, the end of life here is the beginning of life in heaven.
I make these observations, truisms though they may be, because I am particularly conscious of endings and beginnings at this time. The last New Frontier column I will write here on American soil is also the first of the new millennium. My last days as the corps officer of Pasadena Tabernacle will soon give way to my first weeks as the divisional commander of the Central North. I’ve lived too long and I’ve grown too smart to fall into the trap of making New Year resolutions–especially in print! But there are some random ‘millennium musings’ I want to share with you at this time of such significant endings and beginnings.
The first thing I need to do on behalf of Margaret and myself is to say ‘Thank you!’ to everyone who has made our stay in Southern California such a happy one. Never have two people been made more welcome or the recipients of greater generosity than we have been over these last four years. I especially want to express my gratitude to everyone at Pasadena Tabernacle–soldiers, members, Advisory Board members, new attendees. If we have done anything for you as your pastors, it does not compare what you have done for us. We will never forget you.
Then I need to express my gratitude to the editorial staff at New Frontier, who have given me this opportunity to put my thoughts in print. Thank you for your restraint with the editor’s pen and for your courtesy when it looked as if I might miss the publication deadline. And to you, the readers, you’ve been wonderful. Your comments have been helpful, even when I managed to upset you by things I said. (By the way, I remain totally unrepentant with regard to my sentiments on guns. I will continue to pray for the day when there will not longer be a gun on an American street or in an American home.)
Of course, I need to reiterate my love for America and things American. Despite my comments in the previous paragraph, I still think this is a wonderful country. And despite my love of soccer, I’ve actually got to like basketball and American football. (I still can’t get into baseball; it’s the only game I know that’s more tedious than cricket!) Where else in the world can you sit down in an inexpensive restaurant and be sure that the person serving you will treat you with the same courtesy they would extend to the President? And where else on this planet will you here that wonderful blessing on your day: “Have a good one!”?
One more thing, before I take my leave. The Salvation Army has a unique place in American life. There is no other country that has taken the Army to its heart in the same way as the USA. From Peter Drucker to the total stranger who stepped forward and paid for our coffee in Starbuck’s last week–they all love us. And there, my American friends, is the challenge. It’s an enormous privilege to be America’s favorite charity. It has taken years of industry and integrity on the part of Salvationists to gain that place. But it’s a dangerous place for us to be. The public plaudits can easily divert us from our primary purpose. At the risk of becoming tedious to those who know my convictions on this matter, I will say it again:
The Salvation Army needs to build larger and stronger corps across this nation if Americans are to understand us fully and if we are to fulfill the purpose for which God brought us into being. We need to put our best officers into frontline corps leadership for the best part of their officership. We need to cut back on the administrivia and pour our resources into attacking the towns and cities of this land with a gospel that will liberate sinners, motivate saints, and delegate the decisions and deeds of the Kingdom to men and women who find a place of service and celebration in lively, growing, local Salvation Army congregations.
Every blessing in the Lord in this new year. And–if you have been–thanks for reading my column.
Ed. note: New Frontier thanks the Major for his insightful and thought-provoking columns–the West is richer for them.