18 May 2012

THE Italy and Greece Command's '125 Congress' in Rome, celebrating 125 years of Salvation Army ministry in Italy, will remain long in the memory of those who participated. Congress leaders the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Barry C. Swanson) and Commissioner Sue Swanson (World President of Women's Ministries) brought an international aspect to national celebrations which included open-air ministry in the Vatican.

The congress itself was preceded by a press conference and public relations dinner. During the meal the Chief presented an overview of The Salvation Army's international mission and Officer Commanding Lieut-Colonel Daniel Naud gave a PowerPoint presentation about the work of The Salvation Army in Italy. Useful contacts were made with politicians, business people and other influential figures and the Chief of the Staff was interviewed by the local church press. Pledges were received which will lead to combined donations of €18,000.

On Saturday morning the visiting France and Belgium Territorial Band played in St Peter's Square, in the Vatican. The programme consisted of 45 minutes of music with an opening and closing prayer. The ministry was enjoyed by an attentive crowd, including Monsignor Brian Farrell from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

While this was happening, four workshops were held at the Frentani Congress Centre. They focused on The Salvation Army's identity and heritage, holiness today, ministry in red-light districts and combatting human trafficking, and planting new corps.

On Saturday afternoon the visiting band held an open-air meeting in the central Piazza San Silvestro, again gathering an appreciative and attentive crowd.

Back at the Frentani Congress Centre Commissioner Sue Swanson led a women's rally at which 20 people responded to an altar call. In the evening the France and Belgium Territorial Band presented a concert at the Waldensian Church in Piazza Cavour, delighting the audience with technique and imaginative presentation. Other church leaders who were present were clearly impressed.

The Sunday meetings were the culmination of the congress. Carefully chosen contributions from the visiting band, cadets, worship groups and the command's young people brought about an attitude of worship and praise, creating an atmosphere of attentive devotion which prepared the way for the Bible messages of the Chief of the Staff and Commissioner Sue Swanson.

A number of people responded by kneeling at the mercy seat. In addition to this, many small groups gathered together in prayer throughout the auditorium.

Report by Lieut-Colonel Daniel Naud
Officer Commanding
Italy and Greece Command