The Chair - Salvation Army Canada


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    The Chair

    Retrospective #19 September 28, 2017 Randy C. Hicks
    More than just a "chair."
    More than just a "chair."

    On my way to a Salvation Army Leadership Training {S.A.L.T.} session back in the 1980’s my co-presenter asked a question I had never been asked before nor since. He came from a well-established Salvation Army family and while unlike his dad he was not an officer, like his dad he was an educator. The query the doc put to me was:

    “Do you want to be the General some day?”

    I was driving at the time and the shock of his inquiry so distracted me that I nearly left the highway! Fortunately my co-pilot didn’t notice this as he patiently awaited my answer.

    Later, in the 1990’s, I was privileged to attend the 141st session of the ICO - The Salvation Army’s International College for Officers! (Not to be confused with the IOC – the Iron Ore Company of Canada!) During that special period in my life I, with the other officer-students visited the SAIHQ (The Salvation Army International Headquarters) and as we toured the magnificent facility we were permitted to visit in the General’s (then General Bram Tillsley) office. As the general was not in the room at the time, session mates jostled to sit behind the desk in “the general’s chair” for a photo opp. I was not one of them although I may have obliged folk by taking their pictures!

    While we are proud to claim four former Generals as ours (being as they were Canadians) and salute them with fine photos hanging on our walls, we do not possess ”general’s office chairs” among the furniture in our meager collection here at the archives but we do have a general’s throne.

    I’m not kidding.

    An actual throne!

    It belonged to the late General Arnold Brown and came into his possession as described below:

    {Prior to the service in St. Cyprian’s Anglican cathedral, I went to meet the Asantahene – the King of the Ashantis – at his palace. A glass of water was offered as a sign of welcome, and as a sign of friendship I took a sip. The enthroned Asantahene was traditionally garbed, his flowing garments highlighted by the gold rings he wore on fingers and toes. Each was formed into the figure of a peacock, the emblem of the kingdom. Once the formalities had been discharged in the local language the king said, “Now we can talk in English” and this he proceeded to do with an accent reminiscent of one of the best British colleges.
    You are a man with great authority over many people,” the Asantahene said, “and I have had prepared for you a special gift.” He then handed me a wood carving of a man’s hand holding up an egg. “Responsibility should be held firmly,” the Asantahene said. “It must be grasped, and not carelessly dropped. And yet power must be held lightly, carefully. To forget its fragility can mean chaos.” Many times afterwards the carving spoke its silent advice. Another meaningful gift was a carved stool of distinctive design. In the history of the Ashantis the original Golden Stool, after which the gift was patterned, was the symbol of unity, to be preserved at all costs. Legend has it that it descended from the heavens about the year 1700 in a black cloud amidst rumbles of thunder through air thick with white dust, alighting gently on the king’s knees. Thus the chiefdoms were united in one state, and for the next two hundred years comprised the most powerful state, after Benin, in West Africa, its power residing in the quantities of gold traded across the Sahara to the Mediterranean. Whatever his ancestors thought, the Asantahene with whom I talked, as well as the majority of his people, are devoutly Christian , and there was a fervency of response when, at the Asantahene’s invitation, I offered prayer. We both knew of another Golden Stool, beautifully referred to in Jemima Luke’s Sunday school hymn: “Yet still to His footstool I may go,/ And ask for a share in His love.”}


    The above is taken from General Arnold Brown’s -
    (Pages 275-76)

    The following is the complete text of the hymn he refers to above:

    [I think, when I read that sweet story of old
    Jemima Luke

    I think, when I read that sweet story of old,
    When Jesus was here among men,
    How He called little children as lambs to His fold,
    I should like to have been with them then.

    I wish that His hands had been placed on my head,
    That His arms had been thrown around me,
    And that I might have seen His kind look when He said,
    “Let the little ones come unto Me.”

    Yet still to His foot stool in prayer I may go;
    And ask for a share in His love;
    And if I thus earnestly seek Him below,
    I shall see Him and hear Him above.

    But thousands and thousands who wander and fall,
    Never heard of that heavenly home;
    I wish they could know there is room for them all,
    And that Jesus has bid them to come.

    In that beautiful place He has gone to prepare
    For all who are washed and forgiven;
    And many dear children shall be with Him there,
    For “of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

    I long for the joy of that glorious time,
    The sweetest and brightest and best,
    When the dear little children of every clime
    Shall crowd to His arms and be blest.]

    Oh, as for the question “Do you want to be the General someday?” I told the doc that I had never thought about it. He probed with further questions “You’ve never thought of aspiring to become the General? Are you not ambitious? Do you not see yourself moving up in the ranks?”

    Still a young Captain I responded, “Doc, I’ve given myself to the Lord to do His will through me in the Salvation Army. I’ve resigned myself to leave appointments in the hands of SA leadership. Should the day come that I am chosen to move into the office of the General and sit in that chair so be it, but to answer your question – no, I do not want to be the General.”

    For the record, I am not professing to have always held true to this youthful idealism as there have been times when leadership and I did not agree, and there have been very difficult “Popeye” (see yesterday’s post) moments. My prayer has often been couched in the words of William Cowper – “The dearest idol I have known, Whate’er that idol be, Help me to tear it from thy throne, And worship only thee.” (SA Songbook 2015 #612)

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