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Apr30WedFor 50 years, Jim Gordon has led groups in Christ-centred worship and praise. April 30, 2014 by Melissa Yue Wallace
On a winter day in February, a snowstorm relentlessly pummelled Ontario, shutting down schools and businesses while causing numerous flight and bus cancellations. Most people stayed home, grateful for the opportunity to spend the day indoors.
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In the city of Woodstock, however, a man and his wife were not at home. They were delivering lunches to shut-ins for the Victorian Order of Nurses, a program their corps, The Salvation Army Woodstock Community Church, has been a part of. Without the delivery service, many recipients would have a difficult time getting a nutritious meal due to disabilities, income and other factors.
“They were short on people that day,” explains Jim Gordon, 82. “It's a service we're able to help with.”
Sacrificing time and energy for others is something Gordon is used to. For 50 years, he has been the church's songster leader and has been in charge of the band for a total of 30 years. His packed schedule includes band practice on Mondays (Jubilee Brass) and Tuesdays (corps), songsters on Thursdays and private music lessons in between.
“I've always felt that if the officer wasn't able to get up to do a message for any reason, the songsters could present the message in song that particular Sunday,” he says. “If I didn't have the commitment of the people in the corps, I wouldn't be able to keep doing what I'm doing.
“That's what makes it so enjoyable."
Prelude to Passion
From an early age, Gordon's roots were saturated in music. His father was the bandmaster in Woodstock for 17 years and songster leader for 19 years. His mother sang in the songsters and “had a great singing voice.” As a child, Gordon's father taught him to play the cornet. Gordon played his first solo when he was six years old.
In 1945, his first year at music camp in Jackson's Point, Ont., he decided to make the commitment to follow Christ. “It was one of those experiences where I felt God's spirit very closely,” he says.
Gordon joined the songsters and, in 1955, became the deputy songster leader. Then in April 1964, he became the songster leader. In his later years as a family man, his two sons got involved in the band and one of his two daughters joined songsters. All are married now and have children of their own, some of whom are involved in music.
For Gordon, his most memorable experiences include band trips to Jamaica, England and Milwaukee, but local events also left a lasting impression.
“When we go to nursing homes and start singing some of the old gospel songs to people with Alzheimer's disease, it's interesting how they suddenly come alive—it's very inspiring,” he says.
Gregory Jolly has been part of the band for approximately six years and the songsters for two years. “Mr. Gordon is much more than a band and songster leader, he's a great spiritual leader,” he says. “Looking back at my life and his previous students' lives, I can see the huge impact Mr. Gordon has had on us all. I'm not sure where I would be in my walk with God without his guidance and leadership.”
Heart and Soul
Since retiring from his job as a manager of financial and administrative services, Gordon has stayed active in ministry and has been honoured for his years of dedication to others. In 2011, he received the exceptional service of ministry award, the second highest recognition after the Order of the Founder.
At his corps' 125th anniversary, friends and congregation members pitched in and surprised Gordon with a new cornet.
“I never owned a cornet before and it floored me,” he says. “I was honoured.”
This month, Gordon will be recognized for his 50 years of service in Woodstock.
“Jim has been an incredible face of the corps and continues to be a mentor to youth in our community,” says Major Stephen Sears, corps officer. “Music comes alive through his leadership. It's moving to see how he communicates with the band and songsters and the warmth, love and admiration that is given to him in return.”
“I continue to serve with Songsters because it is one of the ways I praise God. I feel a great message is delivered through our music and the words we sing. Mr. Gordon's commitment has been a great example to follow as well. He is a passionate teacher and a great example of a Christ-centered life.” — Pam Noels, member of Songsters for 19 years
“Jim is a leader who brings out the best in you and motivates you to always strive for your best. It is hard to say 'no' to Jim because he is so faithful himself and goes many extra miles in his ministry. Jim's character is sterling and is an excellent example of Salvationism for the many people, young and old, he teaches and leads. I continue to serve as a bandsman under Jim's leadership because of his example. At my age I should probably retire from the band, but we are a small band with an onerous message and if Jim, at his age, can do what he is doing, then I feel I should try and do my part.”—Don Gregory, bandsman for 55 years
“Jim Gordon is a dedicated and committed godly leader. Sometimes I am sure we drive him crazy at practice, but he never fails to remind us of our purpose and the message we are to bring to the listener by our music. He expects much of his Songsters, but no more than he is putting in of his own efforts, while respecting the needs and abilities of those in the group. He always encourages us to try and not to worry if we make a mistake.”—Christina Fyn, member of Songsters for 32 years
“Mr. Gordon has been leading bands all over this country, but his heart totally belongs to the Woodstock Salvation Army band (only second to his Songsters). I honestly believe a band plays as well as the guy standing in the middle and our guy in the middle is one of the finest Christian gentleman you will ever meet. We have a small band and Mr. Gordon is so very proud of the way we play. He is always emphasizing the fact that we are playing words and not just notes on a page. He is always encouraging, especially to our younger members, and ends our practices by asking us to pray for people on our sick list before we play a closing hymn. On Sunday mornings when we are finished playing a piece, he gives us a smile and whispers a 'thank you.' ” —Karl Jolly, deputy bandmaster, Young Peoples band leader and bandsman for 15 years