Monday, 28 May 2012


It's been a strange old weekend.

Sure enough, Saturday morning came and the postman woke us with some more nonsense from the nursery. It says something about a nation's priorities when a nursery is more likely to get in trouble for mishandling data than for helping to split children and parents. Having given them several 'last chances', I am now left with no alternative but to hang them with whatever legislative rope comes to hand.

Anyway, in the same way that we are not going to be going to the Olympics, we had the strange situation of being in London during a big Army congress, which, for one reason and another, we didn't attend. There were other occasions in your family over the weekend, and yesterday we went up to see Grandma and Big Grandad, to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

On Friday night, though, we were at the Regent Hall for the 'warm up' gig with Commissioner Christine MacMillan, shortly to retire from her appointment as leader of the International Social Justice Commission, whose visit was of much interest. There was a great deal of atmosphere, and a sense of anticipation as to what the weekend would bring.

Ironically of course, the 'I'll fight' theme betrays a common but fundamental misapprehension regarding Army history. Begbie's biography of William Booth, like the War Cry of 1912, quotes a good deal of what the founder said on 9 May in the Albert Hall, but it is generally accepted by Army historians that he is unlikely to have uttered one of his most famous quotes - indeed, words in that form were first attributed to him several years earlier! A year on from a band's 120th birthday, we commemorated a speech (the one he gave was a stirring one in its own right!) using words probably never uttered in it, which was a little odd.

The idea, though, that 100 years on from the promotion to glory of that great visionary and the founder of our movement, The Salvation Army should make another push into the field of social justice, is most laudable. I hope people take more time this year to study Booth's work and writings, which remain so very relevant to us today, if not in their practical absolute specifics, then in their sincere, Godly and audacious intent.

The '#iwillfight' hashtag was designated on Twitter over the weekend, and it was interesting to see what people had to say as the congress progressed. Predictably, much of it was about the event, the venue, the music, and admiration for people and their words. I ventured to suggest that it was today, and in the days ahead, that our 'fight' will be tested. We need the hashtags '#iamfighting' and when we win, '#ifought'!

I was reminded by a quip made by General Shaw Clifton at his welcome meeting in 2006:

"It's a strange quirk of the Salvation Army's legal constitution that a general takes office at midnight. It gives him or her a few hours to mess things up without anybody noticing, I think that's the rationale... there must be a reason for doing this to people at midnight!
...But I did wake up at about 6am, and Helen was sleeping soundly, so I thought 'that's not fair' so I woke her up and said "do you realise I've been the General for six hours?"
She said "What have you done so far?!"
I had no answer to that one! I said "I've slept through most of it so far!""

That afternoon, General Clifton went on to say this, and I think this is all the more relevant in the context of social justice and this weekend's congress:

So it is that God, who raised us up, is calling us again to be a Christ-centred, Cross-conscious Army. As I said to the High Council just a few weeks ago, He calls us back to the old wells. He is not calling us back to old, worn out methodologies, but to the things that made us what once we were: humility, simplicity, nothingness, brokenness, a readiness to risk all – even our reputations – for the sake of Christ, obedience come what may, a fearlessness that the world could not comprehend, a total and ruthless rejection of worldly enticements, a refusal to be seduced by, and to root out from among us anything displeasing to God, a heart for the lost and lonely, being all out for holiness and allowing Jesus to grow Himself within us to change us, and change us, and change us again, from glory into glory ‘til in Heaven we take our place. 
Where do you stand in all this?

Many tweeted '#iwillfight' this weekend. But did they all get up this morning and get fighting? 

This is the Salvation Army that put phosphorous matchmakers out of business, and kept bread affordable.

This is the Salvation Army that bought a girl, losing a man his liberty, to bring to light the exploitation of children.

This is the Salvation Army that gave women a full and equal role from the off, long before most of society did.

This is the Salvation Army that turned the world upside down, with Soup, Soap, and Salvation.

This is the Salvation Army of our forebears; of your and my ancestors. 

This is the Salvation Army, then, of people like you and me. "Sing it as our comrades sang it, many a thousand strong, as they were marching to Glory", as I used to sing in the singing company.

In kindness I ask all our Salvationist readers, and myself (and one day, as your Dad, will ask you):

'What have you done so far?'

Love from Daddy

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