Photo Credit: Laura Dake
Virtual commissioning sends Messengers of the Kingdom into officership
By: Dan Childs
When they set out on their path to officership two years ago, little did the Messengers of the Kingdom know that their final steps on that path would be taken as historical events unfolded around them. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the session was commissioned and ordained Saturday, June 13 in unprecedented circumstances.
Customarily, sessions are commissioned in public meetings in large auditoriums attended by hundreds of people. But the social distancing mandated by the pandemic called for markedly different circumstances, and the 22 Messengers of the Kingdom embarked on their lives of service in a ceremony at the Atlanta Temple Corps with no congregation present but nonetheless made available online by the Southern Territory’s Communications Bureau.
The commissioning and ordination of the Messengers of the Kingdom was originally planned as part of the Call to Mission Congress, but the safety constraints imposed by the pandemic necessitated not only the postponement of the congress but a scaling down of commissioning ceremonies.
Lieutenant Shawn Simmons, the session’s representative speaker, noted that he and his session mates have been shaped by the events that surrounded their final months of training and that they set out as new lieutenants fully prepared to carry out The Salvation Army’s mission.
“We leave here as messengers, called to live out Psalm 145:11, which says, ‘They tell of the glory of your Kingdom and speak of your power.’ We will be handed the keys to the Kingdom and given the opportunity to seek out the lost and lovingly lead them to Jesus.”
Lieutenant Simmons said he and his session mates will try to let others see Jesus through their own example of serving and loving their fellow man and that they will rely always on the Lord to empower them. “We do not take hold of the keys of our corps in our own strength; it is only in the strength of the Lord.”
Following the ordination and commissioning, Colonel Susan Bukiewicz offered a prayer of dedication and Territorial Sergeant Major Jeremy Rowland offered a blessing and asked that the Messengers of the Kingdom be dedicated to loving and working hand-in-hand with the people of their corps to establish God’s Kingdom on Earth.
Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, brought the message, in which he expounded on the nature of kingdoms in general and God’s Kingdom in particular. “What exactly is the Kingdom,” he asked. “If we don’t know exactly what it is, how do we know if we’re getting the message right about it?”
He challenged all to imagine a kingdom without injustice, bigotry, pettiness, self-promotion or selfishness and where everyone looks out for others. That kingdom is available now, he said. “That’s the kingdom we’re invited to live in.”
Commissioner Howell noted that Jesus prayed in the Lord’s Prayer that God’s Kingdom would be established on Earth, that God’s will would be carried out here, just as it is in Heaven.
“Guess who’s charged with sharing the message of how God intends it to be,” he said. “It’s the Messengers of the Kingdom. That’s the responsibility of being saved, the responsibility of being members of God’s Kingdom.”
Major Tom Louden, principal and president of Evangeline Booth College, pronounced the Messengers of the Kingdom fully prepared to carry out the mission with which they are charged. “They are prepared to minister in the mighty name of Jesus, to bind the broken-hearted, quickened and sharpened with the proven weapons of our warfare – love and service.”