Salvation Army officers celebrate their joyful journey at SAROA reunion
By: Commissioner Robert E. Thomson
“Joy in the Journey” was the theme of the 87th annual reunion of the Salvation Army Retired Officers Association held recently in St. Petersburg, Florida. Commissioners Willis and Barbara Howell, Southern territorial leaders, and Lt. Colonel Eddie Hobgood, territorial program secretary, shared in ministering to the 163 enthusiastic delegates representing the four United States territories.
Also participating in the three-day event were a 10-member performance group from the Territorial Creative Arts Ministry and Lt. Colonels Ken and Dawn Luyk, Florida divisional leaders.
During the opening meeting, led by Major Paula Fleeman, SAROA president, the territorial commander used experiences from his own life, as well as the lives of well-known Salvationists, to press the point that Christian joy often is found in “the unscripted, unpleasant, unhappy circumstances” of life.
“You may not have complete control over your journey,” Commissioner Howell reminded his listeners, “but you have complete control over your joy.”
Earlier in the meeting, Commissioner Howell was “drafted” to participate in a trombone sextet from SAROA Brass, the band attached to SAROA.
On the second day of the event, nearly 150 officers from the North American territories Promoted to Glory during 2018 were honored by Commissioner Barbara Howell. Recalling the Apostle Paul who, near the end of his life had testified to having fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith, she said, “May the footprints we leave lead others to Christ.”
The evening program took the form of a mini-musicale, presented by the creative arts team, recalling typical events and experiences from the life of an officer. The Atlanta group was aided in this presentation by the St. Pete/Clearwater Corps Children’s Choir.
At the conclusion of the evening, Commissioner Willis Howell observed that Satan attempts to destroy our joy as Christians because “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”
The first of two meetings on the final day was a worship service during which Lt. Colonel Hobgood, in the dress and language of Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle, pressed the claims of holiness in the lives of believers.
Following a closing dinner, Lt. Colonels Luyk installed the SAROA officers for the coming year: Colonel William Harfoot, president; Commissioner William Francis, vice president; Major Betty Bender, secretary; and Major Everett Wilson, treasurer.
Throughout the reunion, music was prominent. Two new songs, written especially for the occasion by Major Paul Fleeman, were introduced. SAROA Brass, concluding its 36th year of service, was on duty. Also participating were the Joyful Journeymen, a vocal quartet, and the trombone ensemble.
Singled out for special recognition was Lt. Colonel Tom Jones, retiring as the SAROA Brass bandmaster after 11 years’ service in that capacity.