My first trip to Commissioning
From the Desk Of…
by Stephen Smith. Major –
My first trip to Commissioning was in 1967. My sister had just completed her first year of training, and my parents decided that our family should drive from Portland to San Francisco to support her and my brother in-law as they received their summer assignment (back then the summer assignments were not announced until Commissioning weekend). Because I was only 9-years-old, there are many things that I have long forgotten about that event. For example, I don’t remember the actual summer assignment meeting, but I do remember the flags and excitement of the appointment service.
The lobby of the Memorial Temple in San Francisco before and after the meetings was full of excitement as people rushed about saying hello to those that they hadn’t seen for some time. I also remember that the Hollywood Tabernacle band played a new composition entitled, “The Holy War,” which would become a Salvation Army classic. The only reason I knew the title was because my father, a bandmaster of the Portland Citadel Band, was quite thrilled with the performance and spoke about it often after our trip to San Francisco.
Speaking of my father, there was a special guest that weekend, composer Eric Ball. A superb Salvation Army composer, Ball wrote many compositions that are no less than ingenious. One of the defining physical characteristics of Ball was his snow-white hair. My father also had snow-white hair and, to someone who did not know them well, it was easy to mistake one for the other. Needless to say, my father had many people coming up to him over the weekend to ask for his autograph. So, throughout the weekend he signed many autographs—not with Ball’s name but with his own. Apparently there were many people who were quite astonished when they realized that their autograph was not from Eric Ball but Orrin Smith!
I probably missed most of the memorable moments of that Commissioning just because I was too young to fully comprehend what was going on. What I did come away with was a sense that The Salvation Army was more than just what I knew in Portland, Ore. It was a much bigger Army, with great music, crowds of people who all seemed to know each other, and a sense of enthusiasm that was literally beyond my comprehension.
Later on in life, I would realize that much of what I experienced when I was 9 was really about the celebration of a shared vision that God has given to those of us in The Salvation Army. The fellowship, the music, the flags, and the commissioning of cadets is all about keeping God’s Army marching forward, and specifically about the proclamation of the gospel message to this generation and to the generations that follow. The cadets of the God’s Fellow Workers Session will be commissioned to serve in a world that is much different than it was 41 years ago, but thankfully we serve the same God who through his Spirit enables us to boldly proclaim his Word to a world that desperately needs to hear it.
This year, as people gather together from all over the Western Territory, be looking out for those 9-year-old kids who may seem a bit overwhelmed. Be nice—they are part of the Army’s future—one may even be the training principal some day!
Major Stephen Smith is training principal at Crestmont.