Workers start the job
God’s Fellow Workers Session commissioned and sent out.
by Robert Docter –
June 13, 2008—With the early morning patchy fog of a Palos Verdes springtime dissipating in the warm morning sun, 14 Salvation Army cadets marched under an azure sky through the Crestmont rose garden and presented themselves to Commissioner Philip Swyers, territorial commander, ready to commence service as Salvation Army officers.
Friday the thirteenth held nothing but hope and promise for them as they participated in their last formal responsibility at the Army’s College for Officer Training. Each signaled a readiness for service and looked forward to their ordination as ministers of the gospel on Sunday and their first appointment to the field as a member of that worldwide band of “Fellow Workers” in the cause of Christ.
It was a time of celebration – from the very beginning with the entry music by the Brazil National Band, to the presentation by Major Stephen Smith, their recently appointed principal, through the challenge of the General John Larsson’s (Ret.) commencement address and into the presentation of academic degrees by the territorial commander.
In her commencement address, Cadet Marianneke Summerfield drew on two quotations—one from a Bengali poet, and the other from 2nd Corinthians 6:1, the Scripture that gave the session their name.
The poet (Tagore) wrote: “I slept and dreamt that life was a joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” She amplified these lines with each cadet’s journey from the dream through training—now comes the service and the joy.
From Corinthians she quoted: As God’s fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. “There’s still more to come,” she said, strongly. “This duty, this calling is not to be taken lightly.” Then, addressing Swyers, she added: “We are God’s Fellow Workers. We are ready to go, equipped to minister, and willing to serve.”
Lyrics of the session song, by Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien, underscored the joy and challenge of their calling:
Rejoicing in this calling!
Rejoicing in this task!
God gives us his challenge
And grace if we ask.
We are joyfully giving our all for the lost
As God’s Fellow Workers.
Larsson drew on the theme of his autobiography for his address to the cadets: Saying Yes to Life. He urged them to say “yes” to their potential; to adventure; to their mission; and to God.
In relation to his comments on their mission, he stated: “The world experts in multi-tasking are Salvation Army corps officers!” and then went on to identify only some of the one or two dozen tasks this position required. “It’s not easy,” he said. “Saying yes to life requires focus, determination, and courage—but best of all, there is a power within that is working within us. So, say ‘yes’ to life and go in God’s strength.”
Friday and Saturday
Friday activities included the Silver Star Banquet, held at Crestmont, at which parents of the cadets to be commissioned received Silver Stars from Commissioner Pat Swyers, territorial president of women’s ministries. Most weekend events were held at the beautiful Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. Larsson spoke at each of the meetings, developing the weekend theme: “Come Join Our Army.” That evening, the territory celebrated the Army’s internationalism as well as the multi-culturalism of the West with a program titled: “All Over the World.” With song, presentations and video messages, each of the Army’s five zones was represented. Larsson’s address was titled “The World for God,” and Swyers presented the territory’s World Service and Self Denial gift of $6,469,980.
Saturday afternoon found General Larsson discussing his musicals with assistance from vocal soloists, musicians, and actors before a capacity crowd. The evening event, the “Spirit of Salvationism,” focused on General John Gowans’ (Ret.) summary of the Army’s Mission Statement: Save Souls, Grow Saints, Serve Suffering Humanity.
In Larsson’s remarks he identified his concept of the spirit of Salvationism as: the spirit of joy, the spirit of boldness, the spirit of passion—and to do each now. In concluding he quoted from a story of a “biker,” breathing out anger and hurt, coming into a corps and spilling it all out. “Then, a little lady stood and said to him: ‘you look as if you could do with a big hug.’
“That’s the spirit of Salvationism,” Larsson said—“going up to those who are hurting in the world out there—and giving them a big hug.”
On Sunday morning the God’s Fellow Workers Session of cadets were ordained as ministers of the gospel and commissioned as Salvation Army lieutenants by Commissioners Philip and Pat Swyers in a solemn ceremony in which the cadets individually sealed their commitment by signing their covenant before God.
Larsson’s message focused on a passage from 2nd Corinthians 5 that calls us to be “Partners with God” in a ministry of reconciliation with him. Therefore, we are called to share his compassion, to share his suffering, but also, through this, to share his strength.
With all the territorial leaders assembled on the stage, high levels of excitement and anticipation filled the auditorium as the new lieutenants marched in to receive their first appointments to the field from the territorial commander.
Commissioners Swyers recognized officers with long service, retiring members of the Territorial Executive Council and presented four New Frontier Trailblazer awards.
Larsson charged the cadets to be strong and courageous—not terrified of “giants” in the field nor susceptible to the devil’s strongest weapon: discouragement. “The Lord will be with you.
Following a benediction by Lt. Colonel Debora Bell, the lieutenants marched from the hall into the arms of parents and friends. n God’s Fellow Workers Session
commissioned and sent out.