09 October 2017

'GO FORWARD!' was the strong message from General André Cox to Salvationists and friends who gathered at Regent Hall Corps (church) for The Whole World Mobilising Celebration Day. The event, in the heart of London, UK, recognised the many ways in which people around the world have responded to the General's call to leave their halls and find creative ways to meet needs in and take the gospel message to their communities. The day of praise and celebration included participation from the corps sections, including the worship group, ensembles from the UK and many International Headquarters (IHQ) officers and employees.

In the Sunday morning meeting the band's playing of 'People Need the Lord' reflected the call to mobilise. Corps officers Majors Caroline and Richard Mingay welcomed international leaders General André Cox, Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries), the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Brian Peddle) and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle (World Secretary for Women's Ministries), General John Larsson (Retired), Commissioner Freda Larsson and Commissioner Gisèle Gowans. The Chief led a call to worship and reminded listeners that loving God includes loving people and that no one is beyond the reach of God.

Flags representing each of the five international zones were brought forward, along with a The Whole World Mobilising flag, and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle spoke of Mobilising flags being carried in territories where Christianity is threatened or along hot, dusty roads. She spoke about how lives have been transformed through the initiative. Lieut-Colonel Kalie Webb (IHQ) introduced the prayer focus with a series of pictures of the many ways in which Salvationists have mobilised by marching, offering practical assistance and through creative activities. During this time the congregation formed small prayer groups around the hall.

Commissioner Cox said that no one could have imagined how the vision of a mobilised Army would have captured the hearts of Salvationists around the world as they have discovered the importance of going back out to the streets. She prayed that this would continue to the glory of God.

A reminder of a Bible character who reached out in faith was given through the singing company's lively performance of 'Dare to be a Daniel'.

Regent Hall Songsters – with guest soloist Suzanne Rose (Kettering Citadel) – sensitively contributed 'My Covenant' before the General addressed the congregation, explaining that The Whole World Mobilising is doing what God has been asking The Salvation Army to do for 152 years. Quoting the words of the Army's Founder, William Booth, about the poor and lost, that 'these are our people', he continued: ‘We cannot sit complacently in our places of worship because – unless we’re fully engaged in mission – there are people who may never experience the love of God. The challenge for The Salvation Army, 152 years into history, is to capture the vision of the early pioneers to change the world. If ever the Army chooses to demobilise – to go back into barracks – ultimately it will not exist.’ In the final moments of the meeting many responded in commitment.

In the afternoon, traffic was brought to a standstill on Regent Street, as – led by the band and the international leaders – Salvationists of all ages and nationalities marched to Trafalgar Square for an open-air meeting. Hundreds of people stopped to listen, including some who had an elevated view from the front of the National Gallery. As conversations were shared, copies of the leaflet ‘Who is this Jesus anyway?’ and the Army papers were distributed and the young people handed out red shield balloons.

Music was provided by the band and male vocal group FourHymn. Konverse – from Barking Corps – supplied energetic dance and the Chief of the Staff linked items together in an engaging manner.

Arriving back at Regent Hall, the marchers barely had time to draw breath before they were launched into the celebration meeting, which was led through by Ester Ellen Nelson, an Icelandic Salvationist who is project manager for The Whole World Mobilising. Energy levels were boosted by lively performances from Konverse Dance and W1 Gospel Choir.

The meeting included thought-provoking video segments that showed the extent to which the international Salvation Army has responded to the General's call to get out of their halls and engage with their communities, including a piece about the Mobilising campaign, a peacemaking song from Kenya and the Lord's Prayer in a variety of languages. New videos created especially for the event included a short film by the Bill Booth Theater Group (USA Eastern), testimonies from India and the USA, a remix of a speech given by the General (created by Salvation Factory, USA Eastern) and a modern twist by DJ Morph on the traditional Salvation Army song 'Rouse, then, Soldiers, Rally Round the Banner!', calling today's Army to 'rally up!'

Before the celebrations began, the Chief of the Staff led a time of prayer for people around the world who have been affected by disaster and terror. 'We need to remember our international family today,' he said.

The international approach was obvious throughout, including prayers from IHQ officers in their native tongues and cultural dress, and a group Bible reading presented by a representative from each of the five IHQ zones.

A clear example of mobilising was provided by Zena Osterberg, from Hadleigh Temple Corps. A keen timbrelist, Zena shared how God had led her to use her passion for this traditional Salvation Army instrument. She began a group called Timbreltastic which was aimed, she explained, 'in the community rather than in our church building'. Since beginning the group in June 2016, more than 80 people have taken part, of whom more than two thirds previously had no links with the corps. As Zena left the platform to applause, she quietly placed her tambourine on the mercy seat in a touching act of symbolism.

The General laid down a challenge for all Salvationists. 'The call is to go,' he said, 'to go out into the world, not remaining hidden in our halls.'

Explaining how The Whole World Mobilising has seen people try innovative and imaginative ways to reach their neighbourhoods, he reminded Salvationists and friends: 'God calls us to be a force for transformation in every community.' Setting out his objective that emphasis on mobilising should not end when 2018 comes around, he concluded with a clear, strong rallying cry: 'Salvation Army, it is time to go forward!'

The meeting closed with the full-throated singing of 'I'll Go in the Strength of the Lord', with the final note punctuated by the firing of streamers over the congregation.

The planning for the day's meetings was based around the fact that the events were not just for people who were there in person, but that they represented an opportunity for the world to join in celebration through online participation. The two meetings, the march and the open-air meeting were all streamed live via the Mobilising website and Facebook. The outside events were supported from a studio created for the occasion at Regent Hall, which also presented interviews with people who had played a part in the Mobilising initiative.

At the time of writing, the three events had been viewed a total of more than 47,000 times, with comments being shared on Facebook from right around the world, including places such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, Pakistan, Zambia, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Jamaica, the USA, Canada and Ecuador.

One person in Scotland celebrated being part of a meeting for the first time in 11 months (due to illness) and Major Heather Grinsted wrote: 'We are joining with you from Kuwait. We have sung along, listened to the Word and prayed together. One Army. Blessings.'

Report by Major Jane Kimberley and Kevin Sims

Tags: South Pacific and East Asia, Africa, Europe, Americas and Caribbean, South Asia, Events, The General