on the corner “Not weary yet!”

By Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief

My corps (Pasadena Tabernacle) recently celebrated its 125th birthday. It was quite a shindig. Lotta people. Mostly past and present soldiers. Many traveled long distances for the occasion, and seeing them brought back warm, fond memories. The event took place on the exact date that the Army held its first meeting in Pasadena more than a century ago. The group celebrated more than longevity. They celebrated victories.

During the celebration planning, I became aware (through reading New Frontier) that a number of other corps in the Western Territory were celebrating 125 years. Two thoughts immediately flashed through my agile and fertile mind. The first was that these other corps were trying to upstage our corps. (This kind of thinking is called “self-centeredness.”)

No…really, big congratulations.

The second thought resonated around the question: “Who was that person leading the territory around 1888 who started opening corps?” And then I realized that the Western Territory didn’t even begin until 1920. So, whoever it was seemed to have operated a long way from “the leader,” acted autonomously, did not feel a need to get permission, worked outside bureaucratic entanglement, and had a bunch of free swinging entrepreneurial risk takers with him/her.

This is the way the Army leapfrogged around the world. Lay people acted independently. The Army in the United States, Australia, France, the Marshall Islands, and probably other places as well, all started with the laity. They were inspired by the Army ethic and wanted it where they lived. They started a corps, and called it “The Salvation Army.” Then, they asked the Army to send officers. And, the Army sent them—fast.

Brilliant. Entrepreneurial. Courageous. What happened?

My guess is that that in our beginning we were very young and feared nothing. Today, we have requirements, such as sufficient funds, available officers, a facility and other bureaucratic entanglements that squelch the entrepreneurial drive of soldiers, who then silently delegate the responsibility for corps building to the establishment.

Now, we still embrace the same ethic, but, administratively, it’s a vastly different Army. It’s also a very different world. Society seems more complicated. The Army is often tied in knots by legalities, rules, regulations, and, strangely, our narrowing conservative nature. The model implemented 125 years ago just might not work.

This corps, 125 years in Pasadena, has maintained a nucleus of highly cohesive soldiery. This did not change even with the addition of close to 200 soldiers when the Hollywood Tabernacle Corps merged with the Pasadena Corps 30 years ago. Together, we carry on rich traditions and celebrate the victories of past giants of lay and officer leadership. At the celebration, the Tab musical forces revealed their skills, and the audience had a chance to compare their current prowess with their own participation in the musical groups of their day. In my judgment, the current groups are as good, or even somewhat better, than their predecessors—except, maybe, the second cornet section in the senior band. There’s one old guy who doesn’t know when to hang ‘em up and insists on sitting first chair in that section, much to the frustration of the 16-year-old “comer,” who is always bothered by the old guy shouting: “Where are we?”

I believe that God has used exceptional corps officers, consistent local officer leadership, a wide array of music programs and the camaraderie of the membership to stimulate much of the growth of our soldiery. The growth trend line reveals a slow, continual climb—both in attendance and program quality. Program development is the harbinger of growth. It requires the ideas, participation and energy of the membership. Our membership seems not only willing to do this, but insists on being involved. After all, it is “our” corps.

Over the years we have been blessed with quality leadership from corps officers and an active corps council. Our current officers, Majors Darren and Mary Norton, along with their four children, have fit in with excellence. I really like a guy who sees a challenge and does something about it while bringing lay leadership along with him. Our World Service donation this year will increase by about four times over, primarily, because Darren had a vision that became a goal owned by the membership and it is moving forward. See more:

I had a great time.

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