On the Corner
by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief –
I like any sentence with some form of that word in it. It has to do with bouncing back, with rebounding, with recovering from adversity, with the ability to renew, with being stretched, strained or bent out of shape, and then springing back to an original state.
What’s it mean?
It means you’ve taken a hit—maybe a big one, and then found a way back in the game.
It means you don’t give up—you handle the pain of the stretch and you push on.
It means you’re flexible, pliable, elastic enough to bend in the face of environmental pushes and pulls without losing the essential operating principles of your life.
It means you have an agenda for your life that’s based on positive values, strong beliefs, constructive attitudes, and,
without being bull-headed completely, move through life with your eyes firmly fixed on the principal goal, the big picture, the primary plan.
William “Resilient” Booth
William Booth ended his personal connection as an evangelist with the Methodist New Connexion due, primarily, to value differences. I suspect he felt anxious—wondering about how he would support his family. Maybe he felt frustrated, because this certainly wasn’t what he had expected. He was being stretched. After a lengthy period of low income as an itinerant evangelist, with three children and a pregnant wife and with commitment to the poor he founded the East End Revival in a large tent located on the old Quaker Burial Ground at Mile End.
The Christian Mission
Firmly believing in his destiny, he scraped a little money together, and, along with some donations, got a hall and made it the East London Christian Mission. With God pulling one end, Booth stretched and expanded into several cities this became the Christian Mission. It was not universally successful and eventually needed an attached soup kitchen to rescue it financially.
Booth’s stretch brought him in close contact with the poor as he personally felt the pressures, tensions and challenges of ministering to the total needs of his fellow humans. He and his family were among them.
The Salvation Army
Booth’s stretch provided him with the necessary experience, the long range vision and the operational model that led him to establish The Salvation Army.
In the face of disappointment, doubt and even despair, Booth kept bouncing back. Resiliency could have been William Booth’s middle name.
Talk about a mighty stretch—his parish soon became the entire world.
There was something in the Army firmly attached to well held and broadly accepted Christian belief systems. It also had the elasticity necessary to exist in the sinners’ world and within the many different cultures of the globe. Booth’s Army knew how to be stretched. It handled the hit of Booth’s death. It possessed a solid identity. It differentiated itself with a specialized mission well within the Christian tradition and stayed fully attached to a mainstream Christian theology. Its members wore uniforms, called themselves sergeant this and captain that—so what. This Army seemed to be God ordained. It kept bouncing back and spread around the world.
This, of course, included Europe. With committed, intelligent, hardworking and persevering helpers, Booth built a fine Army there and stretched it across the entire continent. It took several monstrous hits. Two wars caused major tests of loyalty. Dictators did not resonate positively to the word “Army.” Some paid the price of martyrdom as they stretched but stayed firmly centered.
With military victory after the first war Booth’s Army bounced back with a remarkable display of resilience.
Only a couple of decades later along came Adolph, and he had to control any “Army” on his soil. In the face of ugly, murderous racism the yellow, red and blue flag went underground. Many Salvationists did what they could to rescue vulnerable people. War once again erupted, and finally, evil was vanquished. Salvationists gave God the credit and then dusted off uniforms. Officers reclaimed corps buildings. Over time they thrived in western Europe, but in the east they discovered new dictators driven by different ideologies and once more were forced undercover. Now there is freedom and choice as well as an Army of Salvation.
Talk about resilience.
Americans have long been used to freedom of religion without denominational dominance by any one faith. Europeans seem somewhat surprised by increasing secularism and church attendance is in decline. As always, many tend to see this phenomenon as a permanent condition—a threat to a total value system. It isn’t. Salvationists see this as fertile soil and are undeterred. We minister to the total person.
We know who we are. We’re committed to what we do. We believe God is in charge. We do what he says.
I echo Pope Paul VI—“In essentials—unity. In non-essentials—flexibility. In all things, charity.”