03 February 2012

SALVATIONISTS and friends in Bangor, Northern Ireland, celebrated 124 years of witness and ministry in the town with a visit from the Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, and Commissioner Sue Swanson (World President of Women's Ministries).

The celebrations included thanksgiving for past ministry but those gathered were encouraged to look to the future of the corps (church). The visitors challenged Salvationists and friends to see people as Jesus did – resulting in personal relationships which ultimately direct people to God – and to look for new opportunities to reach out to the local community in practical and meaningful ways.

Celebrations and fellowship commenced on Saturday with a quiz and music evening. Commissioner Sue Swanson played a ukulele, accompanied by members of the band in a joyful rendition of 'You Are My Sunshine'. A special 'one night only' choir, including past friends and members of Bangor Corps, united to sing an old-time Salvation Army favourite, 'We are Soldiers Fighting for the King of Kings'.

Sunday worship was a time of encouragement and challenge. The Chief of the Staff asked the congregation to look around and see others as Jesus did – without judging and with compassion. He emphasised the need for The Salvation Army to remain a mission for the 'whosoever' in Northern Ireland and around the world.

The meetings included personal testimony, singing from the Brownies and Rainbows group, contributions from the songsters and a lively presentation by the junior timbrels. The band also participated – joined on Sunday evening by the Chief of the Staff on bass.

In her Bible message on Sunday evening, Commissioner Sue Swanson spoke of how Joshua had claimed the ground promised by God. She challenged her listeners to demonstrate greater faith and actions in meeting local needs. She also spoke of her Northern Irish roots, linking back to her great-great-grandmother who emigrated to New York from Ballymena.

'We've been truly blessed by the commissioners' ministry,' said corps officer Captain Carole Tucker. 'We at Bangor will be developing new and exciting ways in which we can engage with the local community, share our faith and address local need in practical ways. The commissioners have really encouraged us in this vision to be practical disciples of Christ.'

Report by Captain Carole Tucker