The Salvation Army dedicates women’s dormitory and chapel at Tampa ARC
By: Brad Rowland
“Precious Lord, take my hand. Lead me on, let me stand. I am tired. I am weak. I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light. Take my hand, precious Lord. Lead me home.”
Those words, penned by Thomas A. Dorsey, reverberated through The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 6 and provided an atmosphere of worship and reflection. While there were plenty of offerings during the dedication service of a new women’s dormitory and chapel, the vocal selection featuring residents of the program helped to poignantly mark the celebration with the backdrop of the Army’s work and purpose.
The 30-bed facility – which also has a designated intake area, two classrooms, office space, library, kitchen, dining room and more – opened in December. It is the only women’s program in the Tampa Bay area that is cost-free to its residents.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” said Major Liz Wilson, director of special services and officer development of the Territorial ARC Command. “We’re also very thankful to be able to offer this service in the Tampa Bay area and with how well it has already been received in the community.”
To commemorate the facility’s opening, a gathering was held in the venue’s new 250-seat chapel. Members of the community joined with The Salvation Army to rejoice in its opening and with the spiritual center of the entire endeavor.
Majors John and Katherine Reed, Tampa ARC administrators, welcomed the assembled crowd. They were joined by Councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin, representing the city of Tampa, and the Honorable Jack Espinosa, representing the Hillsborough County courts.
“This is really a remarkable place to be,” Judge Espinosa said. “You all do God’s work, through hard work and through good work for people who care about themselves, and even when they don’t, they care about themselves by the time your work is done.”
The ceremony also featured a moving testimony from a resident named Julie, who was later recognized and involved in the service of dedication alongside the South’s territorial leaders, Commissioners Willis and Barbara Howell. Music was a prevailing theme, as patrons were greeted by the sounds of “The Second Hand Band” providing an uplifting backdrop. Later, the ladies chorus performed a selection amid congregational singing.
Commissioner Willis Howell challenged those in attendance through the lens of the Army’s ministry in the ARC program.
“There is a correlation between bridge-building and life,” Commissioner Howell said. “In life, things happen, and people fall. One day, life is this, and then, through a series of events that you may or may not have had control of, suddenly life is that. … Generally speaking, no one falls on purpose. No one wakes up in the morning and wants to fall. It is often situational and unforeseen.
“The good news is that a fall doesn’t have to be fatal,” the commissioner said. “The presence of a net, something to catch us and rescue us, is reassuring to anyone who finds themselves closer to the edge than they’d like to be.”
“The strength of any net is that it is made strong through a network of support. The Salvation Army’s net isn’t any different in that it is made up of staff, volunteers and supporters of many kinds. … You help strengthen and anchor our net and, when all of those strands are woven together, the Army can catch many people.”
Movingly, Commissioner Howell also addressed the “WHY,” the Army’s overall mission, acknowledging that “if we’re only able to help people in a social setting, we would have the gratitude and the recognition of the community and its leaders in pretty much any community, and we do enjoy that reputation. However, if all we did was save people from falling in our net and did nothing else, we would have failed at the most important aspect of our mission and our purpose.”
“There is another aspect of this that, for us, is the driving ‘WHY’ behind what we do. … We want to catch people, but we want to leverage what we believe to be a spiritual truth. We believe in The Salvation Army that no one has to go to hell. Not everybody believes in a literal heaven and a literal hell … but we want to do our part to make sure nobody has to go (to hell). This is the reason William Booth started The Salvation Army in the first place. He was very clear.”
Finally, those gathered joined in a song of victory in a congregational sense. The program closed with the words of “Amazing Grace,” put to voice by a male ARC recipient in a moving portrayal.
Important work is already underway in Tampa, Florida, and it was in motion long before the doors opened to the impressive facility dedicated to women’s ministry. On this day, however, it would have been difficult to leave without feeling a sense of inspiration, as the Army and its partners in ministry came together to construct a venue that will allow that work to continue and prosper.