'ARISE a Mighty Army!' – the theme for General Linda Bond's visit to the East Midlands Division of the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland – was powerfully exemplified in the witness and worship of 1,500-plus Salvationists and friends who gathered at three locations over the weekend. But stronger than anything else evidenced was their commitment to 'rise up and stand up for Christ'.
The event began in Sneinton, Nottingham – birthplace of Salvation Army Founder William Booth – on Saturday morning when the Lord Mayor of Nottingham (Councillor Leon Unczur) greeted the Army's world leader. Later, numerous Salvationists witnessed to their faith in the city's Market Square. Lincoln Band and Nottingham Arnold Corps (church) members shared the gospel with passers-by, information stalls attracted interest and the divisional emergency vehicle served free refreshments.
For some 900 people, however, it was the chance to hear the General that prompted them to journey from all corners of the division and beyond to attend the Saturday night celebration event in Nottingham's Albert Hall. The General took the salute during the entry of the divisional and corps flags, with Kettering Band playing the aptly-chosen march 'Emblem of the Army'. Other music contributions from Nottingham William Booth Memorial Halls Songsters and a festival chorus, along with a time of praise and prayer led by members of the division's summer school, were all warmly received.
A song commissioned for the weekend – based on the International Vision: One Army, One Mission, One Message – was introduced to the congregation. The General pointed out that this composition (by Stephen Pearson and Kettering Bandmaster Richard Phillips) brings the number of pieces written on this theme to four.
After some of the division's applicants for officership had given a Scripture presentation, the General in her Bible message called on the Army to release God's power by being an Army on its knees in prayer and an Army of faith – marching forward with belief and confidence.
A recurring theme throughout the evening was the question, 'How are you standing up for Jesus?' – one which several Salvationists, young and old, answered in video-recorded testimonies. Divisional Commander Lieut-Colonel Mike Caffull interviewed Majors Mike and Margaret Bowers about their appointment in continuing to establish an expression of Salvation Army ministry in Market Harborough. He then challenged the congregation members to make a stand for Jesus in the places they find themselves. That they may be Holy Spirit empowered was the congregation's united prayer as the day ended with the singing of 'Send the Fire!'
The powerful words of the chorus 'Spirit of the Living God' were used to great spiritual effect during the Sunday morning meeting, held in the east of the division at the Lincolnshire Events Centre. During her Bible message the General reiterated her heartfelt prayer that the breath of God would blow over the Army in a way not seen in her lifetime. Many of her listeners made public their desire to claim a fresh infilling of God's Spirit.
Earlier, during a time set aside for young people, Divisional Children's Officer Adrian Kemp attempted to make a sandwich for the General – using a hammer, saw and electric drill! It illustrated how not only are the right tools needed for any job but also that good use should be made of the talents God has given people. Helpful music was provided by Gainsborough Band and Derby Central Singing Company, while Boston Worship Dance Group featured during a period of prayer.
A significant moment for Market Rasen comrades came when the General presented them with their corps flag. After many years as an outreach centre Market Rasen has been given corps status.
Wellingborough Songsters opened the evening meeting at Corby Business Academy with 'God of My Praise'. Scripture quotations and praise choruses featured in a worship segment led by Kettering Youth. Later, children who had met the previous night in their own 'Kidzone' for worship, games and Bible discovery set hands clapping, feet dancing and voices singing praise to God when they and the congregation sang 'He is the One'.
While Leicester South Band played 'Servants of God', on-screen images depicted the God-honouring ministry being carried out at some of the corps in the southern part of the division. They served to echo the General's firmly held belief that she shared with the congregation: 'God still has a purpose for The Salvation Army around the world. He wants to use the Army – every Salvationist it in! – in even greater ways.'
As in the morning meeting, after the General's powerful preaching there was a ready response to her invitation to the place of prayer. A father led his young son forward; married couples knelt together; small clusters prayed as families or for their corps. Such closing scenes of the weekend were fitting endorsement of the General's conviction that while this God-raised Army remains a God-glorifying Army it will be a mighty Army.
Report by Captain Nick Cotterill and Major Trevor Howes