“We’re the Army”
By: Dan Childs
Mankind is in distress, adrift in a stormy sea. What is The Salvation Army to do about it?
Salvationists gathered at Atlanta Temple Corps Sunday, Jan. 7 to welcome and witness the installation of Commissioners Willis and Barbara Howell as Southern territorial commander and president of women’s ministries. Over the course of the afternoon, the congregation would be challenged to be the force that William Booth raised in London’s East End more than 150 years ago, to throw out the life line to save the souls of men and women.
“We’re the Army” was the theme of the afternoon’s service, and it was an apt focus, but the underlying and equally fitting theme was expressed in the old rallying hymn, “Rescue the Perishing.” In this case, the song was sung with gusto, set as a spirited march arranged by Bandmaster Nick Simmons-Smith and played by the Southern Territorial Band.
Because we are the Army, it follows that it is our charge to rescue the perishing, said the newly-installed territorial commander in his challenge.
“Humanity is adrift in the spiritual sense and needs rescuing,” Commissioner Willis Howell said. “We accept that saving people is our business – it’s our middle name, isn’t it? We’re the Army. Let’s make the difference God has called us to make.”
With a very long rope as a stage prop, the territorial commander used it to illustrate the lifespan of a man – including the eternal part of that span. The earthly part of the lifespan was represented by only the very tip of the long rope. Yet what happens in that minuscule section of the rope determines where the soul resides over the span of the much longer section that represents eternity. What we in the Army do in our finite time on earth has direct implications for what happens in eternity. Our efforts to minister to man’s earthly needs and concerns are important, but that ministry must be guided by what he called “the greater need, the overarching need” of man’s spiritual fate.
Colonel Ralph Bukiewicz, the chief secretary, welcomed the congregation and presided over the meeting. Territorial Sergeant Major John Reeves and Captain Brandon Mason offered words of welcome on behalf of the territory’s soldiers and officers. Greetings were given to Commissioners Merle and Dawn Heatwole, representing International Headquarters. The international secretary for the Americas and the Caribbean and his wife conducted the installation ceremony for the Howells.
Following the installation ceremony, the Howells knelt in prayer at the holiness table and were joined in prayer by the Cabinet, the Territorial Executive Council and family members.
Commissioner Barbara Howell, in her response, noted that the Howells’ journey as officers began at Atlanta’s Peachcrest Corps in 1985 and eventually took them far away to the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory before they returned last November to lead their home territory. Taking the platform in ruby slippers, she clicked her heels and recited three times, “There’s no place like home! … It is my hope that we will do the right thing at the right time for the right reason, but I can only do this if I allow the Holy Spirit to live in me and through me.”
View the installation online here.