Jean Jones writes about the Ladies Fellowship meeting on 9 July.
As the Chatham Corps Hall is out of bounds and in the process of being rebuilt, the Ladies Fellowship meetings are being held in the lounge of Pembroke Court, a residential complex of independent flats in the High Street.
Major Andrea Still was the speaker at the meeting this month.
She had been asked to speak about her appointment to the International College for Officers earlier in the year and what it meant to her. For the sake of the ladies present who were unfamiliar with The Salvation Army she explained the background and history of the ICO and its home, The Cedars. Hence the term ‘Cedarite’ – one who has been part of a session at the Cedars. Each officer appointed for a term at the ICO has to have served for 20 years in The Salvation Army, have leadership skills and have something to offer the College. Major Andrea fulfilled these qualifications as she has worked for the SA for 20 years mostly in inner city work in the Manchester and Glasgow areas. At first she had been an unwilling participant but soon came to understand the privilege that it is to be at the College. She learned so much about the internationality of the SA and how it is wonderfully led by people of quality, grace and integrity. In order to celebrate this the delegates were divided up into zones, each of which were tasked to put together an evening to let everyone know about their part of the world, how the Army started and what is going on now. She had a treasure box of little gifts which had been given to her by people from other countries. The European zone decided to celebrate by dressing up in old Army uniforms and hold an open air meeting. They showed video clips of comedy sketches of life today and ended by having a yodelling karaoke. Very funny. On the serious side, the focus of the session was to go deeper into the Word and the priority of prayer.
There were visits to historical places like Whitechapel and Nottingham – some of which have been reported in Andrea’s blog on this website.
Andrea said that she was impressed by the internationalism of The Salvation Army which is unique in that no other religious organisation in the world operates like The Salvation Army – all SA countries are connected to each other with an International Headquarters. General Linda Bond spoke about One Army, One message, One Mission. 125 countries with different cultures, different backgrounds, different laws. Commissioner Hodder, Legal Secretary, had spoken about how countries like Egypt, Iran and Iraq are asking The Salvation Army to commence some work in their countries – quite clear that first and foremost we are a church with a heart for the poor. Armenia, very much a Moslem country run by a military regime has negotiated with The Salvation Army to come to start work. The Chief of the Staff visited the ICO and said that the challenge is to keep the focus on putting strategic people in places who are mission focussed.
There were many stories about how people in other countries are working on anti-trafficking, HIV/AIDS and helping people to help themselves. Also, The Salvation Army is raised up in places by people who are unknown to the leaders. Recently, over the period of two and a half years, four people started up The Salvation Army in Southern India. There are now five Corps and 878 new soldiers were enrolled en masse – the largest group ever to be enrolled together.
Major Andrea showed her skill in scrapbooking as she shared her memories with us. At the conclusion she shared some words from the ‘I’ll Fight’ booklet and encouraged us in our own lives to give people a voice by listening to someone in trouble and speaking up for them. The Salvation Army here can be a place where people find joy and Jesus. ‘….each one loved every other one; and, together, they loved those who were outside in the darkness; and by that love, light streamed out into the darkness. ‘
We thanked Major Andrea for sharing her memories and experiences with us – we all learned a lot about The Salvation Army and about how God is working His purpose out through this international ‘army’.
There will be no meeting in August but on September 10, if the weather is good then a walk will be arranged – venue to be decided. The October and November meetings will be held in the lounge at Pembroke Court: in October the evening will be about Bees and in November we will be packing shoeboxes for Serbia, especially for ladies. December will be the Christmas dinner at the Grangemoor Hotel and bookings for this will be taken soon.