Gateway Corps makes the most of changing circumstances
The St. Louis, Mo., Gateway Citadel Corps celebrated their first in-person worship service after an extended county-wide coronavirus shutdown with the joyous enrollment of one senior soldier and one adherent and the commission of two soldiers as local officers. It was a momentous occasion, marking the first new member enrollments which derived from a growing relationship between the Gateway Corps and the St. Louis Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC).
According to Captains Christopher and Rachel White, corps officers, the relationship began in 2019 when men from the ARC were given the option to attend a corps worship service in addition to the one at the ARC. Receiving a warm welcome from the congregation, many of the men became regular attendees at Sunday morning worship and two, Tony and Scott, expressed interest in becoming members.
“We were excited for them to learn more about The Salvation Army and what we’re all about,” said Captain Rachel. Unfortunately, with only one lesson left, the classes were halted by government shutdowns in response to the pandemic.
As the corps adjusted to worshiping remotely and the ARC faced restrictions on visitors, Captain Rachel made plans to complete the final lesson individually with each participant, following safety protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing, so they could be enrolled as soon as restrictions lifted. After completing the lessons and being enrolled, the two new members wanted to dive right into serving at the corps. Tony trained to assist with the sound system and visual elements of Sunday services. Scott has since graduated from the ARC program and is beginning the necessary steps to help with Sunday morning pickups, a ministry he utilized before being blessed with his own vehicle.
“The relationship between the ARC and Gateway is important,” said Captain Christopher. “Some of the men continue coming after they are finished with the ARC program. The corps really becomes a part of their recovery and support system, and they bring a new energy to the congregation.”
In addition to the new members, soldiers Cashus Saydee and Andrew Randall were commissioned as songster leader and bandmaster, respectively, filling critical leadership roles and continuing the corps’ strong musical tradition. Both soldiers transferred from other territories, Cashus from the Eastern Territory and Andrew from the Australia and New Zealand Territory. Both soldiers have come to call Gateway home and have become a valued part of the corps’ leadership team.
Throughout the pandemic, the Whites have found ways to keep the congregation connected and active. When St. Louis County became the COVID hotspot in the state of Missouri, restrictions prevented them from meeting in person. During this time the members participated in Bible study, prayer meetings and worship using a variety of mediums from traditional conference calls to livestreaming. Many also joined the captains for several short Bible study series using a Bible app, which allowed them to create groups and have discussions without needing to set a specific meeting time.
“We love seeing how people have adapted and how they are being included,” said Captain Rachel of people’s positive response. Now that some restrictions have lifted and they are able to meet for regular worship and weekday programming the Whites are thankful for the new tools they learned to use during the pandemic.
“It’s about taking the tools and using them to broaden our reach to people who may not be able to come to the corps for whatever reason,” concluded Captain Christopher.