“We are stepping out in faith, ready to do what God has called us to do,” declared Lieutenant Rebecca Pretty, just minutes after being commissioned and ordained as a Salvation Army officer. Speaking on behalf of the Witnesses for Christ Session, Lieutenant Pretty highlighted the unity of spirit that exists among her session-mates.
Two years ago, the Witnesses for Christ moved to Winnipeg to commence their studies at the College for Officer Training. While at CFOT, they participated in academic courses, field placements and spiritual formation experiences.
In The Salvation Army calendar, there are few events more exciting or sacred than the commissioning and ordination of new officers. Not only does the experience celebrate the achievements of cadets, but it also inspires Salvationists to reflect on God’s calling on their own lives. Held in Toronto from June 19-21, the Commissioning 2009 weekend provided many opportunities for spiritual enrichment and renewal.
Among the Nations
On Friday, Commissioners Ivan and Heather Lang, retired officers from Australia and international guests, spoke at the officers’ councils held in the afternoon at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, venue for most of the weekend activities. Commissioner Ivan Lang challenged those present to move out in mission as they seek to live their lives authentically before God and the world.
Lieutenant Robert Jeffery, then still a cadet, testified about his journey toward officership and the privilege of answering the call of Jesus to minister in his name. “As officers we bind ourselves to our covenant, putting ourselves under the feet of Christ”, he said. “As such, it’s important to remember that in every sermon we preach, we model Christ; in every pastoral visit, we model Christ; every time we take a person out for coffee, we model Christ. It is my hope that in my future ministry, I’ll be able to model Christ in whatever I do.
Later that evening, Salvationists gathered for the Among the Nations concert, which featured inspiring testimonies from people who had received support from the Army as newcomers to Canada. In addition, the Ontario Central-East Divisional Youth Band and Youth Chorus, Hope Community Church’s Devotion in Motion, North York Temple’s Timbrel Brigade and the Korean Corps Songsters provided exceptional musical and gospel arts presentations. For many, the highlight of the evening was hearing John Mak, a 12-year-old virtuoso pianist, present Christ is the Answer with accompaniment by the youth band. As the evening concluded, Commissioner Ivan Lang, surrounded by international flags, encouraged Salvationists to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all peoples.
At the service of ordination and commissioning on Saturday evening, the Witnesses for Christ, with their colourful sessional sashes proudly pinned to their uniforms, marched past hundreds of friends, family members and fellow Salvationists to salute Commissioners William W. and Marilyn D. Francis, territorial leaders.
As she officially introduced the 16 cadets, Major Sandra Rice, former training principal, highlighted their depth of character and offered her assurance that they were prepared for officership. As well, Major Rice presented the four auxiliary-captains who would be commissioned alongside them as Witnesses for Christ.
After Cadet Ian Scott read from the Officers’ Covenant, Colonel Donald J. Copple, chief secretary, led the cadets in their Declaration of Faith. This was followed by a challenge from Commissioner Heather Lang.
“There are people out there who need your witness,” she said. “You are about to enter the mission field and Jesus is counting on you.”
Commissioner William Francis, territorial commander, conducted the ordination and commissioning ceremony. As the Witnesses for Christ stood before him, he officially recognized them as officers of The Salvation Army. Then, they knelt at the holiness table to pray over their covenant. As they did so, Commissioner Francis read from Scripture chosen for them individually. The 16 cadets were commissioned as lieutenants, while the four auxiliary-captains became captains.
“Today you take up the mantle of spiritual leadership as officers,” said Commissioner Marilyn Francis, territorial president of women’s ministries, in her words of blessing. “While your commissioning and ordination has been individual, you do not enter the battlefield alone. You join a company of commissioned officers, local officers and soldiers who welcome you and will work side by side with you in the great salvation war.”
While the Witnesses for Christ left the platform to change into their officer uniforms, the Canadian Staff Band and the Ontario Central-East Divisional Youth Chorus presented musical items. As the lieutenants and captains returned to the stage, the congregation rose to their feet in applause. Then, under the direction of Chris Tidd, the worship team led a time of praise and celebration.
As the children of the lieutenants joined their parents on stage, Commissioner William Francis confirmed their first appointments. From British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador to Bermuda, the lieutenants will take up leadership in ministry units across the territory.
At the conclusion of the evening, the territorial commander offered two invitations to the congregation: to receive Jesus Christ as Saviour and to accept the call to officership. A number of Salvationists gave visible witness to the second invitation as they joined Commissioner William Francis on the platform.
On Sunday, Salvationists gathered at Scarborough Citadel for a worship celebration and to say farewell to the newly commissioned officers. Commissioner Ivan Lang spoke about the importance of being Spirit-filled. “We have the same mission as the first Christians and, like them, we require the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not make us superman Christians, but he does equip us to carry out our God-given mission.”
In her lively testimony, Lieutenant Anne-Marie Dagenais shared about the challenge of entering training college as a French speaker. “The only word I knew,” she said, to the laughter of the congregation, “was pizza because it’s the same in French as in English.” She expressed deep appreciation to the CFOT staff and fellow cadets for their love and patience in helping her surmount the language barrier. “I long to meet the people at Kirkland Lake [her first appointment],” said Lieutenant Dagenais,” and put into practice what I have learned.”
Later that afternoon, the Silver Star luncheon provided opportunity to recognize the influence that parents and others have had on the lieutenants during the formative years of their lives. The Fellowship of the Silver Star is a special honour given in The Salvation Army to parents and spiritual mentors of individuals who become officers.
As the commissioning weekend came to an end, Commissioner William Francis offered his concluding reflection: “Good things seem so long in coming, but they pass all too quickly.” May God bless and direct our newly commissioned officers as they take up their first appointments.