‘Kingdom on the Rise’: An Evening of Worship and Ministry
By: Brad Rowland
On the evening of Saturday, June 4 and with the theme of “Kingdom on the Rise,” music and arts ensembles from across the Southeast came together for an evening of inspiring worship and ministry. Following a rousing opener titled “Proclamation” from the AOK Divisional Band, led by Andrew Barrington, the program continued without interlude or introduction, with a musical suite titled “To the Chief Musician” serving as one of the centerpieces of the evening.
Backed by a massed band consisting of more than one hundred players and led by special guest William Himes, who penned the musical work, the first movement also featured a massed choir and lyrical movement. This crossover appeal was a clear theme of the evening, with Bethany Farrell, territorial creative arts director, directing the staging and Territorial Arts Ministry (TAM) providing creative arts elements ranging from drama, poetry, and dance.
The program highlighted the work of divisional groups in the middle of the evening, including a featured piece titled “Arise, My Soul, Arise” from the AOK Divisional Band. Later, the Texas Youth Chorus, conducted by Matthew Broome, ministered in song, both in a standalone sharing of “Faithful is Our God” and in conjunction with the Atlanta Area Junior Choir on “Similitudes.”
“I was so proud of the divisional groups that attended the Commissioning weekend festivities,” said Nick Simmons-Smith, territorial music secretary. “Some of these groups have never traveled outside their respective divisions. They all performed to an exceptionally high standard and did so with a very busy schedule that featured intense rehearsals, long days, lots of travel, and not much sleep. I thought they were simply outstanding, which gives me great hope for the future.”
During the weekend, many music and arts leaders from the Southeast were honored with awards and recognition, culminating in a special presentation to Commissioner Paul Kellner on Saturday evening.
“Tonight, we have a special award for someone who has given a lifetime of service, not only to the Southern Territory, but to the world,” said Simmons-Smith in reference to Commissioner Kellner. “Someone who has been faithful where the Lord and The Salvation Army has sent him and his dear wife. Someone who has written countless pieces of music for various territories, session songs, recordings at the EBS, musicals, some of our first contemporary songs, and selections that have gone on to become Salvation Army Songbook favorites.”
The presentation was backed by the sharing of “Risen Savior” from the Southern Territorial Band, highlighting a piece written by Commissioner Kellner and appropriately conducted by his son, Dr. Steve Kellner. In the moments following the awards presentation, it was revealed by Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, the Southern Territorial Band and Southern Territorial Songsters will now be known as the Southern Staff Band and Southern Staff Songsters.
This momentous change comes a few decades after the reformation of the Southern Territorial Band following its disbandment due to financial considerations. The “Staff Band” and “Staff Songsters” designations align with those from other territories across the globe, with the grand reveal of new stand banners, epaulets, and uniform characteristics for both ensembles.
Moments later, a younger generation was represented by Anthony Barrington. Barrington, a graduate student at Yale University, shared a video testimony before performing a solo titled “Victorious” with accompaniment from the staff band.
Later in the program, the ARC Massed Choir, led by Major Jim Shiels, sang a powerful collective testimony of “Why We Sing,” before Lights Up, a creative arts ensemble from the North & South Carolina Division, presented a stirring drama. TAM and the Southern Staff Songsters joined forces on “Rise and Fall,” a dramatic presentation with the backing of the second movement of “To the Chief Musician,” and the Atlanta International Chamber Ensemble provided reflective and excellent musical work through strings.
Following a powerful rendition of a featured brass work titled “Laudate Dominum” from the Southern Staff Band, Simmons-Smith brought a message of challenge and inspiration to those assembled. His words resonated as a strong culmination of the evening and a reminder to keep the momentum as attendees return to local corps and communities.
Fittingly, a memorable and stirring program concluded with the final movement of “To the Chief Musician,” with cadets of the Messengers of Reconciliation session joining with the band, choir, and creative arts groups for a massed presentation. This punctuated an inspirational evening that not only showcased the considerable talents of artists in the territory, but also facilitated meaningful worship and expression.
Breakout Sessions Equip Leaders
Amid a jam-packed weekend of large-scale gatherings, soldiers and officers of The Salvation Army USA Southern Territory took a deeper dive on Saturday, June 4. As part of the worship arts emphasis during the Commissioning festivities in Atlanta, attendees were able to attend a pair of informational and engaging breakout sessions with the aim of equipping leaders for future work at the corps level.
Breakout offerings were wide-ranging in nature. Special guest William Himes, O.F., conducted a session on brass band fundamentals titled “Beyond the Beat,” offering instruction on the best techniques to lead an ensemble, prepare a rehearsal, and support Sunday morning worship. Special guest Linda Himes instructed on “God’s Word for God’s People,” a breakout offered in both sessions and dedicated to inductive Bible Study and the application of God’s Word to one’s life.
As a bridge between both sessions, a panel of four engaging speakers shared on “Innovative Evangelism,” with facilitation from Bernie Dake, territorial communications director. During the opening, late-morning session, the speakers offered a glimpse into what was to come in the afternoon, all in one place. From there, each split into a full hour of dedicated instruction and teaching, with emphases on techniques and habits to cultivate a spirit of evangelism, the aim to be an effective, evangelism-driven corps, as well as approaches to social media in the modern age.
“We’re grateful to these speakers in particular for bringing challenging talks on this area of concern, in addition to the panel discussion,” said Nick Simmons-Smith, territorial music secretary.
In the morning 4 speakers were invited to speak on Innovative Evangelism techniques. Major Julio DaSilva, Captain Liz Blusiewicz, Major Angel Calderon, and Emaniel Brifil brought challenging talks on this area of concern, and then participated in a panel discussion at the end of the session. These speakers all presented breakouts in the afternoon session.
In the music and arts realm, sessions included a focus on choral music for all ages, multigenerational worship team leading, visual arts in worship, and creative choreography, with Simmons-Smith leading a breakout titled “The Golden Hour.” This was a focus on worship planning, examining the essential elements of a Sunday service, the crucial decisions on what should be included, and how to facilitate a worship atmosphere that is God-honoring, inspirational, and challenging.
“The hope for these sessions was to give information, best practices, techniques, and resources to help the field,” Simmons-Smith said. “It was pleasing to see so many people take up this opportunity in the context of a very busy weekend. We hope that the skills learned in these sessions, and the conversations during, will inspire others to take on leadership at the corps level.”