Celebrated & sent forth
Commencement at Crestmont College
“What a beautiful setting this is,” exclaimed the Chief of the Staff Commissioner John Larsson to the cadets, families and friends gathered for Commencement exercises for the Ambassadors of Grace Session at Crestmont College in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Looking out across the magnificent rose garden to the expanse of ocean in the distance, he smiled broadly and added “This must produce the most beautiful cadets in the Salvation Army world!”
Warmly greeted by Salvationists and friends in their inaugural visit to the West as Chief of the Staff and as World Secretary, Women’s Organizations and World President, SA Scouts, Guides and Guards, respectively, Commissioners John and Freda Larsson added their own blend of enthusiasm and spiritual insight to events throughout the three-day Commissioning Weekend.
Friday’s Commencement was filled with a number of firsts for the West: it was the first graduation of cadets with both a certificate and Associate of Arts degree at the new Crestmont College and it was the first time that auxiliary captains received certificates along with a two-year session of cadets. In the future, they will be identified with the Ambassadors of Grace Session.
Captain Rhonda Saunders is congratulated by parents Commissioners Robert and Carol Saunders and family members following the service of appointments
Crestmont College President and School for Officer Training Principal Lt. Colonel Douglas O’Brien led the Commencement ceremonies, held on an absolutely picture perfect day crowned by blue skies and softened by a warm, gentle breeze. As Territorial Commander Commissioner David Edwards introduced Commissioners Larsson to the audience, he noted that they have a link with the West: their son, Kevin Larsson, serves as the Southern California Divisional Music Director.
Larsson spoke with conviction as he identified needs for the 21st century in The Salvation Army: “There is a need for trained, qualified minds to handle all the tasks ahead,” he said. He then spoke of the need for clear, strong convictions, and the importance of being trained in both heart and mind to serve. “There’s nothing worse than an overdeveloped brain and an underdeveloped heart.”
Edwards presented the academic awards and degrees, supported by Captain Stephen Smith and Major Donna Jackson. Auxiliary Captains Kenny and Ramona Beauchene and David and Ruth Scott both received certificates of completion for the Ambassadors of Grace Session–the first time that a/captains had been joined with a session of cadets in that manner.
Session speaker Cadet Jack Holland spoke movingly of “promises made, promises fulfilled,” and of the journey of hard work the cadets had just completed.
Music of inspiration and praise was provided by the Crestmont Chorus under the direction of Janette Bosanko and the WMI band ensemble led by B/M Ivor Bosanko.
Cadet Leslie Stewart pins a silver star on her father’s collar during the parents’ luncheon at Crestmont College.
Another first occurred at the Parents’ Banquet, which was led by Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien: Silver Star pins, traditionally given to mothers of cadets, were given for the first time to fathers and persons of significance in the cadets’ lives. Commissioner Doreen Edwards presided over the ceremony; both fathers and mothers beamed proudly as cadets pinned their silver stars on them–some quietly wiping away tears of joy at the same time.
In her address to the families, Commissioner Freda Larsson encouraged the cadets to live as ambassadors of God’s grace, in the same manner as an earthly ambassador lives to represent his or her country. She encouraged the families to provide support to the cadets in their new ministry as officers.
Dedication of donor wall
The commencement on the campus of Crestmont College allowed attenders to recognize the strong commitment of the territory to develop a complete four-year Christian college for officers, soldiers, and interested members of the community. Such a program, vital to the Army, must generate considerable additional financial support.
Colonel Philip Needham dedicated a wall in the cadet lounge bearing the names of initial significant givers to this important new institution. Needham expressed appreciation to a number of the donors who were present and recognized the generosity of a number of corporations and philanthropists who have aided the Army in the establishment of the Crestmont site.
Saturday evening the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts featured a full program of entertainment, inspiration, and challenge. Meeting leader Lt. Colonel Raymond Peacock first introduced the united singing companies, who sang “God, O Most High,” written by Captain Kenneth Hodder and Bandmaster Ivor Bosanko. Next, Carol Jaudes, creative ministries director in the Eastern Territory, treated the audience to a humorous monologue followed by two songs.
New Frontier editor Dr. Robert Docter, O.F., then introduced this year’s Trailblazer Award (formerly Frontiersman of the Year) recipients. Major Susan Wun, Janet Kincaid, Envoy Roy Snapp-Kolas, and Bill Nunes were recognized for their service to God and The Salvation Army within the Western Territory.
Commissioner David Edwards presented the Trailblazer Lifetime Service Award to Ivor and Janette Bosanko for their lifetime commitment to the work of The Salvation Army through music ministry and program services.
Next, Edwards introduced special guests the Chief of the Staff Commissioner John Larsson and Commissioner Freda Larsson. After a greeting from Larsson, the territorial world services video presentation was screened, highlighting the commitment of each division, along with SFOT, ARCC, and THQ, to a specific project and ending with the announcement of this year’s giving, nearly $6.8 million.
In a surprise presentation, Larsson admitted Raul Guerrero, in-charge at the El Monte, CA, Corps, to the Order of the Founder for outstanding service to the Latino community.
The big event of the night was the School for Officer Training’s presentation of Pilgrim, a Turton/Webb musical based on John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, directed by Keith Turton, dramatic arts specialist from the UK Territory. This tale of spiritual growth followed the pilgrimage of Christian, portrayed by Captain Eric Bradley, as he traveled from his home in the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Along the way, Christian’s faith was tested and strengthened as he faced temptations, defeated enemies, made friends, and received divine guidance. The musical effectively combined tragedy and comedy, and showcased the vocal talents of several of the newly commissioned captains. Reminded of its own spiritual journey, the audience celebrated along with Christian when he reached the Celestial City.
Commissioning and Ordination
The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts became a holy place Sunday morning, filled with thanksgiving and expressions of God’s grace as cadets, parents, and friends participated in the commissioning and ordination of the Ambassadors of Grace.
“This is a community affair,” stated Colonel Phil Needham, who led the meeting. “We are all participants this morning…God is inviting us to see ourselves in these new officers; through them we will hear the echo of our own callings.”
Through the testimonies of Cadets Mario Ruiz and Hilary Patterson, experiences of learning the will of God and the grace of God were clearly expressed. Songs and music were brought by Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien and the vocal ensemble; Janette Bosanko and the cadet chorus; Band-master Ivor Bosanko and the WMI alumni band; and Torrance soldier David Dunford.
After Lt. Colonel Doug O’Brien commended the cadets to Commissioner David Edwards, they were each individually called to the podium where Edwards presented certificates of ordination to each and commissioned them as captains in The Salvation Army–the first time newly commissioned cadets had been given that rank.
In another first, two auxiliary captain couples, Kenny and Ramona Beauchene and David and Ruth Scott, were commissioned with the session as full captains.
Commissioner Freda Larsson offered the dedicatory prayer.
Commissioner John Larsson, chief of the staff, brought the message. He called on the audience to picture an imaginary scenario: commissioning day in Heaven…”All the angels are gathered. It’s an appointment day. God called the prince of glory–and appointed him to planet Earth as an ambassador of grace. We know the story,” he said. “Jesus was the first ambassador of grace.” He noted that just as Jesus was called to be an ambassador, as Christians we are all called to be ambassadors of grace to the world.
Martial music–sacred songs–lashing flags–proud participants–the stuff of a Commissioning Appointments meeting.
Posting of session flags from bygone years saluted a new member as the flag of the Ambassadors of Grace took the stage. The excitement of the crowd mounted with the arrival of the new captains–ordained and commissioned just a few hours earlier.
Territorial and divisional leaders were already in place along with the Chief of the Staff, Commissioner John Larsson and Commissioner Frieda Larsson, all ready to assist Commissioner David Edwards give the session members their first appointments to the field.
Flanked by the members of the Crossbearers session, the Ambassadors sang their session song, a beautifully written and scored song with lyrics by Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien and music by Ivor Bosanko.
Captain Rhonda Saunders spoke for the session. “We are dedicated to serve; dedicated to spread the news of God’s grace to the world…we are not the same people you sent into training 22 months ago. We are new officers in The Salvation Army.” She ended with the statement to the audience and to the entire Territory: “I don’t know if you’re ready for us or not, but here we come.”
Honors, accolades and pins were presented distinguished veteran officers. Those honored for 40 years of service were: Major Jeri Bawden, Commissioner David Edwards, Majors Raymond and Virginia Gilman, Majors Robert and Carol Pontsler, Commissioner Robert F. Saunders, and Lt. Colonel Alfred R. Van Cleef.
Being commended for 35 years of service were: Major Elaine Cross, Major Ralph E. Hood, and Major Gloria Utrera.
And recognition for 25 years of officership included: Lt. Colonels Kurt and Alicia Burger, Major Joe Frank Chavez, Majors Warren and Dixie Dabis, Majors Joseph and Nila Huttenlocker, Majors C. Bruce and Diana M. Jones, Majors Benton and JoAnn Markham, Lt. Colonel Douglas G. O’Brien, Majors Jack and Anna Phillips, and Major Pamela Strickland.
Larsson delivered the charge to the session. “You’re about to begin a life of adventure,” he said, “a life containing a number of marching orders.” He then stated he wanted to provide the new captains with “permanent marching orders” and chose comments Paul made to Timothy–four directions which he amplified with contemporary material designed to fit what he knew would be the challenges the new officers would face. “Keep your head in all situations.
“Second, endure hardships.” Here he amplified the meaning of the word endure beyond the meaning usually understood in contemporary language. The Greek word selected by Paul means to “endure triumphantly,” he said. He recognized that some appointments were very difficult and noted some of the sacrifices required on the mission field. He asked them to provide exemplary leadership, to grow in their spirituality, and to be a visionary as ways to “endure triumphantly.”
Third, “Do the work of an evangelist. The covenant you signed called you to put mission first.
Fourth, “Discharge all the duties of your ministry.” He urged them to avoid concentrating only on what you believe you do well. Do all things well. Gain the skills necessary to do successfully even those things which you find difficult.
Then, the moment was at hand. Each captain marched forward either surrounded by family or alone. A crisp Salvation Army salute was followed by Edward’s reading of the name of a community in which these newest captains will find their first challenges to face them as Army officers.
BY LT. COLONEL DIANE O’BRIEN
Our great creator God
Has deigned to care for us,
Offered us fellowship
Within his kingdom.
This favored membership
Of His eternal realm,
Requires our life-response
Of willing service.
We boldly step out to fulfill his commission,
No longing for leisure, no worldly ambition;
Enjoying his favor, we feed on his word,
The lavish outpouring of the essence of God.
We’ll work and we’ll witness until we see his face
As Christ’s representatives, Ambassadors of Grace.
Our great redeemer God
Has died to ransom us,
Allowed us dignity
Within his household.
This gracious benefit
Of His eternal love,
Requires our life-response
Of joyful service.
Our liberating God
Bequeaths his power on us,
Assigns a task for all
His chosen children.
The challenge we accept
To live to give our best,
And by our life-response
Enjoy his service.