The first virtual commissioning and ordination of officers in the Central Territory not only marked the extraordinary time in which we are living but revealed an exceptional session of focused, resilient and committed new officers who are eager to join others in ministry.
The Messengers of the Kingdom are passionate, pastoral and prepared, according to Major Brian Davis, College for Officer Training (CFOT) principal. He said that hailing not only from America’s Midwest but also Argentina, Cuba, Ethiopia, Puerto Rico and Venezuela gives them a global, inclusive vision, a true reflection of God’s Kingdom—a theme carried throughout the day’s events.
In a video address, General Brian Peddle acknowledged the new officers are being released for ministry into a broken world, not only because of COVID-19 but other issues that plague communities like poverty, abuse, addiction and human trafficking.
“It is into these realities that you step with the glorious message of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of hope for now and eternity,” said the General.
The cadets’ affirmation of faith led by Chief Secretary Colonel Steve Howard also was presented by video.
From their seats appropriately distanced throughout the auditorium, cadets came to the platform, looking sharp in their uniforms and wearing masks, to be ordained as ministers and commissioned as Salvation Army officers by territorial leaders Commissioners Brad and Heidi Bailey, who recognized their calling, giftedness and God’s empowerment for service and spoke in Spanish when it was the cadets’ first language.
Following a beautiful rendition of “I know a fount” by the new Territorial Staff Songsters via video, the territorial commander brought a powerful message that challenged the new lieutenants regardless of circumstances to consistently reflect the countercultural Christ whose love is radical, just, inclusive and transformative. He advocated nothing matters more to God than people hearing, seeing and accepting this message.
A virtual offering with proceeds supporting COVID-19 relief was set to a montage of service during the pandemic accompanied by a recorded performance of Andrew Wainwright’s tone poem Fearless by the Chicago Staff Band. The intermission featured lighthearted scenes of CFOT life, including a congratulatory parade, recognition of long service and degrees and certificates earned by officers, silver star tributes, greetings from Centralites Commissioners Merle and Dawn Heatwole and Colonel Evie Diaz at International Headquarters and a variety of resource ads. A parade of session flags across the campus by COFT staff and cadets then heralded a highly unique service of appointments.
Salutatorian Lt. Matthew Winters proclaimed, “It is precisely the diversity that we have that will allow us to reach so many different communities and individuals. God has brought our session together for such a time as this…We are about to come alongside communities, corps and soldiers who are already fighting, who are already sharing the love of God, who are already messengers of the Kingdom.”
Other session members who received recognition included Valedictorian Lt. Michael Raes (Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle Preaching Award), Lt. Robert Leach (Colonel Albert Pepper Servant Leadership Award), Lt. Ramon Cebrian (Commissioner Andrew S. Miller Evangelism Award) and Lt. Haylee Winters (Lt. Colonel Kathleen Zehm World Mission Award).
Commissioner Heidi Bailey, territorial leader for leader development, commended the new lieutenants’ response to the global health crisis and current events, saying it showed their character and understanding that mission is greater than buildings, gifts and methods. She encouraged them to live and serve confidently and expectantly.
Alone, as couples or families with children in tow, the lieutenants stepped to the stage to receive their appointments which were cleverly revealed by the Baileys with the use of Google Earth to cheers from their home divisions via Skype and Zoom.
They take their place throughout the territory as corps officers from Freemont, Neb., to Elkhart, Ind., except for Lt. Raes who was appointed Western Michigan and Northern Indiana divisional mission integration officer. Also noteworthy were the appointments of Lts. Kenesa and Shanell Debela who were commissioned after only one year of training, two auxiliary captains who received their full rank of captain, and the appointments of Lts. Gonzalo Juarez and Yaqueline Galindos from the South America East Territory, who spent their second year of training in Chicago, by their own territorial leaders via Skype.
Despite the circumstances and alteration to the events, a sense of peace and joy permeated the day with a focus clearly on the Messengers’ calling as captured by Lt. Jennifer Norris who concluded, “What is essential is that I am still being ordained as a minister, commissioned as an officer of The Salvation Army and being sent out to preach the gospel and serve humanity in Jesus’ name.”