West’s leaders enter honored retirement

Commissioning celebration concludes Swyers’ active service.

by Sue Schumann Warner –

Swyers are overwhelmed by emotion during the Service of Appointments. [Photo by Nikole Lim]

Amid joyous celebration and heartfelt emotion during Sunday’s Service of Appointment, the Western Territory thanked Commissioners Phil and Pat Swyers for their five and a half years of leadership and wished them God-speed as they conclude their active officership.

Commissioner James Osborne, with his wife Commissioner Ruth Osborne, began the ceremony as flag bearers, sons Captain Philip Swyers, Jr., David Swyers, and brother, John Swyers stood proudly behind them.

Osborne first read a message from General Shaw Clifton, who called the Swyers “people of irreproachable character, firm conviction, and joyful service. We salute them as they enter honored retirement.”

Commissioner Ruth Osborne then read Proverbs 31 and stated, “Today we honor a woman of achievement…a woman of unquestioned loyalty, who has remained faithful to God’s teaching.” Before presenting Commissioner Pat Swyers her certificate, Osborne noted the success of the West’s Women’s Ministries, and stated that it ranks number one of all four territories. “You are a woman of achievement!” Osborne exclaimed.

Calling Commissioner Phil Swyers “gifted but not grandiose, with an uncanny ability to communicate in our day,” Commissioner James Osborne stated the Swyers’ leadership had revolutionized the Western Territory. “You are incisive without being intolerant, devastatingly candid, and a faithful soldier,” Osborne said of Swyers before presenting his certificate.

Commissioner Phil entered officer training in the Messengers of the Faith Session and was commissioned in 1968; Commissioner Pat was commissioned in 1962 as a Soldier of Christ. On the day of her retirement, she was the longest serving officer in the United States—49 years and 22 days.

“The only territory that matters!”
Prior to Sunday’s retirement service, a private celebration and dinner was held—filled with music, song, and warm memories—a true crescendo to God of praise. Commissioner Kenneth Hood presided and greeted the crowd with a phrase often heard from Commissioner Phil Swyers, “Welcome to the West—the only territory that matters!”

Hood introduced sons Captain Phil Swyers and David Swyers and their families—both sons later gave loving (and at times, humorous) recollections of growing up with their parents—prior to a video presentation that portrayed Phil and Pat through the years.

Mary Theroux, San Francisco and national advisory board member, spoke of their absolute devotion to The Salvation Army’s mission, and Commissioner Phil’s “brilliant head for business affairs.” She noted that Commissioner Pat is “a woman of ability and wisdom, who will fight for her convictions.”

Lt. Colonel Larry White gave a humorous retrospective of their 50 years of friendship.
Personnel Secretary Lt. Colonel Dave Hudson thanked the Swyers for encouraging officers and soldiers—they have visited 85 percent of the corps in the territory—noting that Western officers are involved in leadership around the world and will have eight votes at the next High Council.

“You will be sorely missed among the ranks of leaders across the nation,” Commissioner James Osborne stated as the evening drew to a close. Calling Phil a “happy warrior for the Lord,” he commended his relentless work ethic and positive spirit.

Commissioner Ruth Osborne commended Pat for her warm and supportive spirit, and noted the success of the WOW ministry.

Concluding the evening, the Swyers reflected on their years of service. “God’s word is true,” Pat said. “All the promises he has made to me he, he has kept. It’s been a life filled with joy.”

Phil paid tribute to his wife, “You have made my life a joy.” He then spoke of his grandparents coming to The Salvation Army at an open-air meeting in Cambridge, Mass., and to the crowd, he stated, “We have just tried to do our best.”

Farewell from THQ
Employees and officers at territorial headquarters were able to wish our leaders well at a chapel service led by Colonels William and Sue Harfoot, billed as “A Salvation Salute from the Only Territory that Matters.” Warm wishes, hugs, and words of encouragement were given by friends and Salvationists who have appreciated the Swyers’ leadership—and friendship—during their tenure in the West, “the only territory that matters.”

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