04 July 2012

SALVATIONISTS and friends from the Norway, Iceland and The Færoes Territory took the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Barry C. Swanson) and Commissioner Sue Swanson (World President of Women's Ministries) to their hearts during congress celebrations in Oslo, Norway. From Friday morning, which started with an over-60s meeting and an officers meeting, through to the last public gathering the warmth, love and care of the visitors was obvious to congress-goers, who responded at the end of the weekend by giving them a loud and extended ovation.

At the Friday evening welcome and opening meeting – 'An Army Energised by the Spirit' – territorial leaders Commissioners Clive and Marianne Adams welcomed people who gathered from all over the territory with words from Psalm 148: 'Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above'. It was clear that the congress was a holy event – as was confirmed throughout the meeting.

During a women’s breakfast on Saturday morning, 33-year-old hospital minister Katrine Bråtane spoke on the subject 'Joy of Life'. Katrine has been paralysed since she fell off a horse when she was 11, and she said that her deepest joy is based on her faith.

The weather during the weekend was unpredictable, but a march of witness and a 'Happening' outside Central Station took place before everyone returned to the congress venue to celebrate that 'We are Family'. Different aspects of The Salvation Army’s work in the territory were presented before Commissioner Sue Swanson concluded the time of sharing by reminding the congregation of the river from the Temple as described in Ezekiel 47: 'Where the river flows everything will live.'

The theme of the soldiers' and members' meeting on Saturday evening was 'An Army with Outstretched Hands'. Songs, testimonies, music and preaching focused on The Salvation Army's mission to 'stretch out' its hands to the needy. The Chief of the Staff concluded his sermon by reminding the congregation that they can only reach their potential with Jesus.

Late on Friday the international visitors had attended a music concert, and a day later they looked in on 'Sounds of Revival', where they saw a congregation worshipping through joyful song and music.

A prayer group was active during the whole congress, visiting the different arrangements. When the Sunday meetings started there was a feeling of being on holy ground.

The theme for the holiness and missions meeting on Sunday morning was 'An Army with Clean Hearts'. A highlight of the meeting was the dedication to God for international service in the Caribbean Territory of Majors Hildegard and Bernt Olaf Ørsnes. Testimonies, songs and music all added to the Spirit-filled atmosphere.

The Chief of the Staff spoke about Salvationists being holy and set apart. He warned the congregation that this does not mean being proud or thinking that they are better than other people, but that they are chosen to live a holy life.

During the weekend there were separate meetings for a youth congress and children’s congress but everyone joined together twice – on Saturday afternoon for the 'We are Family' celebration, and again on Sunday afternoon at a united meeting for all generations.

The united meeting's theme – 'An Army with Open Senses' – gave opportunity for children, young people and adults to praise God through song, music, dance and prayer. Commissioner Sue Swanson reminded everyone gathered that it is important that they don’t put obstacles in the way of people – everyone must have access to God's house.

Throughout the weekend many people made new commitments or rededicated themselves to God's service at the mercy seat.

Celebrations had begun the day before the Swansons arrived, when an enthusiastic congregation attended the commissioning of three lieutenants.

Report by Major Inger Marit Nygård
Communications Secretary
Norway, Iceland and The Færoes Territory