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Sep29MonInternational congress to celebrate 150 years of Salvation Army history. September 29, 2014
Major Jane Kimberley, editor of Salvationist magazine in the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland, speaks to the co-ordinator of the Army's international congress, Lt-Colonel Eddie Hobgood, about what to expect at the event in London, England, next year.
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How's the planning going for Boundless?
There's a buzz starting to generate with more activity in the congress mailbox and more traffic on the website. In the past few months, the performance groups have been selected and notified. We are now waiting for their responses.
Every kind of variety that you can think of in The Salvation Army is going to be reflected at the congress. One of the things that General André Cox (The Salvation Army's world leader) has said to the groups is we don't want you to come and be a clone of the International Staff Band or International Staff Songsters, as wonderful as they are. We want you to be true to your culture. So, whatever the music, whatever the dress—not everyone needs to be in navy blue!—we want to see the colours of your country, a truly international Salvation Army. When we march down The Mall (a main thoroughfare running towards Buckingham Palace), we want the world to see how diverse the Army is.
Tell me more about this march down The Mall.
I know that a lot of people in the United Kingdom will have been at ISB120, the International Staff Band's 120th anniversary, and the 1990 congress. I've seen video footage of both of those and they looked absolutely extraordinary. Thousands of Salvationists and friends lined The Mall cheering and applauding as they saw and heard the bands. It's going to be that kind of thing because most of the delegates will be there, with thousands of tourists as well.
What about the history of the Army?
All the programs will have bits and pieces of history, but it's not going to be an observance only of the past. Our buzz words are “commemorate the past, celebrate what God's doing today and innovate for tomorrow.” In the exhibition hall, there will be a magnificent historical display, which we're calling the Boundless Experience. It will be a significant creation as you walk through 150 years of Salvation Army history. We are in the process of partnering with Getty Images—they've uncovered some images we don't believe anybody has seen in more than a hundred years. They have shown us some amazing photographs that have just knocked our socks off! In the afternoons, we are going to be doing East End and Abney Park tours. We are going to train some guides for the walkabouts, so history will be a significant part of the five days.
Can you give us a little taste of what we might expect?
Imagine an arena filled with 16,000 people and, at one end, a giant wall of video screens. We want to say we're in the 21st century and technology has advanced so much since the last congress. The screens will be able to change to reflect what the speaker is saying so you can see and hear what's happening. We're hoping to have quite a few massed groups. Can you picture the arena filled with 500 timbrellists or a youth chorus of 750? With technology we are able to teach people all over the world a song; they would then come together for one rehearsal and sing like they've been singing together for a year. Another thought is that for one of our congregational songs, we would pre-record a soundtrack and then you could go to a place on the website and record yourself singing all the verses of that song in your native tongue, so that when we're singing it in the arena—if you can't come to the congress—you can still be represented there in hundreds of squares on a screen. Among those hundreds of squares will be large ones of people we have Skyped in live to sing along as well—and so the whole Army world will be singing together. Through webcasts, two million Salvationists around the world will be able to experience congress as we're experiencing it.
What do you think William Booth would have made of all this?
I believe William Booth would have embraced technology years before we have. He would have utilized it in every meeting just as he used the technology of his day in his car tours (of the United Kingdom)—that was cutting edge. I believe he would be saying to Salvationists, use the technology for the glory of God—reach people. I think he would be dancing a jig at this congress.
What about people who say, “Why do we need a congress?”
I remember the first planning meeting we had with General Linda Bond (Rtd). She said, “I believe this is something that God wants us to do. As far as The Salvation Army is concerned, this needs to be our alabaster box that we break and give to the Lord to show him our gratitude for what he has done, what he is doing and what he will do with The Salvation Army and the impact it's made on the world during the past 150 years.” Congresses on any scale are expensive, but I don't think you can calculate the benefits. If you come from a small corps you don't always realize that you are part of something so much bigger. Then you hear how God has moved in people's lives and how he's touched them and transformed them. God spoke to them in that bigger setting like he would not have spoken to them anywhere else. We believe the same is going to happen here and that God is going to reinvigorate the Army and place callings on people's lives. I am trusting for amazing outcomes.
Why would you encourage Salvationists to attend Boundless?
There have only ever been seven international congresses in our 150-year history. While there was a congress 14 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, there is no guarantee there will be another international congress in the foreseeable future. These events are historic and bring the Army together in a way that is unparalleled. There are Salvationists spread right around the world and many of them are serving in small to medium-size corps and centres. This congress will open all of our eyes to the internationalism of The Salvation Army like never before and help us see that we are part of a family that is almost two million strong.