20 June 2012

TERRITORIAL leaders Commissioners James and Carolyn Knaggs named the congress 'The Gathering', and more than 5,400 officers, soldiers and friends did just that, gathering together from across the USA Western Territory at the Pasadena Convention Center, California, under the leadership of General Linda Bond. Four days of fellowship, learning, inspiration and consecration concluded with Sunday meetings that saw 41 cadets of the Friends of Christ Session receive commissions and appointments.

On Sunday morning the General ordained the cadets as ministers of Christ and commissioned the session as Salvation Army lieutenants. In the afternoon, before the lieutenants received their appointments, she charged them to go forth, taking Christ into the world.

The Gathering’s three evening meetings from Thursday to Saturday each focused on an aspect of The Salvation Army's International Vision – One Army, One Mission, One Message.

At the Thursday evening meeting, 'One Army – A Great Gathering!', the General told her audience: 'You belong to a great Salvation Army, not because you made it so, but it is great because it belongs to God.'

The next day's evening meeting took the theme 'One Mission – I Believe'. It included the enrolment of a total of 350 junior and senior soldiers and adherent members. Also featured in the evening were the ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Centre) Chorus, Seattle Temple Band, prayer for the summer Service Corps missionary teams, and an announcement of the territory’s World Service contribution of $6,905,762.

In a surprise announcement, the General admitted Warren Johnson, a soldier from Tustin Ranch Corps (church), to the Order of the Founder – The Salvation Army's highest honour. Warren's citation referred to his 'exemplary service above and beyond the call of duty, demonstrating commitment to evangelism and spiritual formation and corps, territory and worldwide levels'.

In her Bible message, the General said that mission requires both action and vision. 'We need to see the world as God does,' she said, explaining that sometimes the world appears so dark that people wonder what they can do. 'We need to see that God can use the candle, the match, the light in our life to do something amazing and bring light to darkest places,' she said.

The evening meeting on Saturday focused on 'One Message – Fire in the Blood'. It featured the Territorial Youth Band, massed singing companies from Torrance and Tucson, and the Pasadena Tabernacle Youth Chorus.

Territorial Commander Commissioner James Knaggs and New Frontier Publications Editor-in-Chief Bob Docter presented Trailblazer awards – given annually for innovative and exceptional service – to Major Linda Manhardt, Ted McClure, George Walker and Lorrie Davis.

In her Bible message the General told the audience: 'You can be wrapped in a Salvation Army flag from birth, but if you’re not in relationship with Jesus you can’t be saved. I pray tonight that this would be a salvation meeting and you would come to Jesus.'

Performance of Spirit IIThe meeting climaxed with an outpouring of God’s Spirit and a massive response to the General's appeal. Army flags waved to the brass band’s music and colourful streamers filled the air.

On Saturday, General Bond attended the new musical Spirit! II: Empire – music by Kevin Larsson, lyrics by Malcolm Westwood and script by Karl Larsson. The new musical is a sequel to the 1974 musical Spirit!, and Kevin and Karl are the sons of General John Larsson (Retired), who wrote Spirit! with John Gowans. General Larsson was in the audience to see the new production.

Congress events were broadcast worldwide on the Internet by the newly-launched territorial online TV station, SAVN.tv.

Report by Bob Docter

 Event photo gallery: thegatheringpix.com