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    Suit Yourself

    Three ways to embrace the uniform. February 12, 2015 by Captain Scott Strissel
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Let's face it—the uniform is not going to win any fashion awards. It won't be on a runway in Paris or featured in a high-end boutique anytime soon. The older generation is more likely to argue for wearing a uniform than the younger generation. I'm not here to argue for or against uniform wear (an audible sigh is heard all around the Army world), but I do recognize the need for such a uniform in our Army.

    Recognizable
    The uniform is recognizable. Sure, it might be a marketable feature to donors and the public, but it should also be a symbol of hope to people who see it. Many soldiers and officers can bear witness to the fact that people often come up to us and say things such as, “You don't know me, but The Salvation Army saved my life….” The uniform is recognized by those the Army has helped, as well as those who want to help. We may have to sacrifice some comforts in order to wear it. By putting on the uniform, we are taking off some of our personal identity and individuality and becoming part of something greater than ourselves. Or perhaps our identity and individuality make the Army greater than before. We do this together. We wear the uniform for a purpose. We share in this mission and fight not as solitary soldiers, but as a unified Army—so be recognizable!

    Christlikeness
    I'm not saying that Jesus donned one of our finest polyester navy blue uniforms, but we can embrace the uniform by understanding what it represents. Remember that the “S” stands for “saved to save” (or “saved to serve”). Who have we been saved by? Christ. He gave us salvation and showed us what holiness looks like. We have been saved for a holy purpose—to show others a new life in Christ and help them navigate life's murky, sin-sick waters. We can glorify God through the ways we conduct daily lives while wearing the uniform. Can we practise “Christlikeness” out of uniform? Of course, and we should. But we can also use this semi-comfortable contraption to bear witness to a transformed life. Wearing the uniform isn't always easy, but neither is living a holy life. If you are a soldier and you are committed to the cause of the Army, then consistent uniform wear is probably a given.

    Unique Witness
    Barring airport delays caused by being mistaken for an airline pilot, the uniform can be a unique witnessing tool. People are curious about it. If anything, it's a wonderful conversation starter. Witnessing is so much more than the old method of handing out tracts, cold-calling people or yelling “Jesus saves!” on a street corner. People want to be engaged on a personal level. If we have hidden motives, we are disingenuous in our witness. Wearing the uniform will either scare people away or cause them to ask questions. And, who knows? Perhaps you can develop a relationship with someone because of it.

    While wearing the uniform, we can't hide the fact that we are soldiers and Christians. We all know of areas in which Christianity has been tarnished by inconsistent witnesses and downright hypocritical people—and we can't afford to be that kind of witness while in uniform. Seriously, if you don't think you can be a consistent witness whether in or out of a uniform, don't wear the uniform. I don't mean to be harsh, but either wear it with conviction or don't wear it all. Embrace the symbolism behind the uniform or walk away from it.

    The Future of the Uniform?
    I don't know what the future holds for the uniform, but if what we have seen in the last 20-30 years indicates anything, the Salvation Army uniform can and will change. This doesn't mean that it will disappear, but it might mean that certain adjustments will be made (ahem, bonnets and high collars). Will skirts and pantyhose be next? I don't know. Can I say that I always enjoy wearing full uniform? Of course not! Will I stop wearing my uniform as long as I am a soldier and an officer? No. Would I welcome some adjustments or modifications to the uniform in the future? You bet I would!

    Captain Scott Strissel lives in Brainerd, Minnesota. He is an active blogger and contributor for the purpose of encouraging and challenging the Salvation Army world. Read his blog at pastorsponderings.org.

     

    Comment

    On Friday, February 27, 2015, Donald Jefcoat said:

    I remember a few years ago when I was still very involved in the Army. I was returning home from work wearing a Summer Uniform with my blue jeans rather then a sunday dress pant. I had stopped into the local grocery store. The town had an Army presence that had stopped wearing the uniform. I had one lady start stop me to ask when the Salvation Army was returning. Imagine her shock when I informed her that it was still there but they had changed their image where as I belonged to a corps that was more traditional. She remarked that my uniform was better then the old ones but no uniform was not Army. I said on Sunday I still wear the "Old" uniform but figured for the time spent working in a food bank jeans were better on the laundry bill then dry clean only pants.

    If the day came for me to return to the Army I know that I would also strive for the return to the privilege of wearing the uniform. And would advocate for its return if the corps officer didn't push it.

    On Thursday, February 26, 2015, Kathie Chiu said:

    There is always such debate on peripheral things and it brings to mind the worship wars. Some people just don't like change and get very upset when there's mention changing anything. They feel that the earth is shaking under their feet. Other people love change and are constantly attracted to the new and improved.

    I have no problem identifying ourselves as belonging to the Army when we are out serving the public. I do mind the tight, unforgiving tailored uniform with a skirt that women have to wear. For the men, as my husband tells me, it's as comfortable as any suit. For women, it's not like any other clothing I wear. I usually wear pants - I have never been a skirt/dress person. We need something less formal, more inclusive, something that others would want to wear and not be turned off by.

    Some questions I always have are:

    Is it really necessary to establish rank on our uniform? Does that really matter?
    Do we really need to wear our full formal uniform on Sundays? As one writer above suggested it can be a real turn off to newcomers.
    Do we have to have a coast to coast policy? Do we not realize that Newfoundland and Central Ontario and the West Coast are very different in attitude and dress?

    If we can all focus on fulfilling the mission of the Salvation Army, and less on what we look like, everyone will know us. Even a red shield on a shirt is enough. It's the logo people recognize, not the blue suit. Why does it take so much talking about this issue - so much time wasted talking about and worrying about clothing - when we can just get on with it. Let's get on with getting up to date and stop worrying about people who will miss the uniform as it was designed in 1975. People will complain, but we do need to move forward and make our mission and our Army relevant to a new generation.

    On Monday, February 16, 2015, Ketland Dyer said:

    I can't understand why anyone would want The Salvation Army to be "remembered" for their clothing. William Booth did not tell us to focus on "Bonnets, Boots, and Bugles", but "Soup, Soap, and Salvation"!!! And... "remembered" ??? Why? Where are we going? What's going to happen that will put us in a position where we could be forgotten? Let me think:

    People will forget us if we are not relevant to them. People will forget us if they cannot relate to us. People will shun us, ignore us, or reject us, if we go out of our way to make them feel as if they have to achieve something before we will let them belong.

    In Hastings, UK, I have seen a corps slowly die because they believed that "the old ways" were more important than "the new people". I have seen the numbers dwindle because the members thought that keeping the 3-year-old son of a new visitor off the mercy seat was more important than welcoming his single, vulnerable mother. I have seen an ex-officer dedicate herself to glaring at the children of newcomers, instead of dedicating herself to making them feel as if they were loved.

    By all means, wear something that tells others we belong to the Salvation Army, but wear something that they can relate to. If everyone in your town can relate to a full, formal uniform, then wear that. But if they can't, I can tell you with absolute confidence that Jesus will not commend you for keeping your uniform nicely ironed at the cost of souls, when you enter his glory.

    Oh, and the price of the full dress uniform is utterly crazy, and it's poorly tailored, too. Ask any man or woman with a "fuller figure" how they feel about the additional mark-up they have to pay for larger sizes, or how they feel about how tight and badly designed certain things are!

    On Saturday, February 14, 2015, john stephen said:

    i see no relevance in wearing a uniform. it would be much better to start practicing believers baptism and communion. i love the army but in these areas they are lacking. when i go to my local army there are very few people wearing the uniform

    On Friday, February 13, 2015, Rosie Baker said:

    The Salvation Army will always be remembered for the bonnet not the new hat. if we start to change everything will people forget us .
    went to a funeral the other day and grandma turned up in a bonnet .. wow what a wonderful memory on such a sad day .

    On Friday, February 13, 2015, Cam Mckerrow said:

    I have seen a few of these " embrace the uniform posts recently" and I believe whenever someone publicly posts there thoughts it is an open invitation for response/discussion.
    I am a Christian and I understand and agree with a few of your points, yes it can be a good witnessing tool but also it can be a great turn away for people. Picture a new person walking into your church and 90% of the congregation are in uniform. Instantly you have communicated that a person is not "in" until they dress a certain way which is the opposite message Christ has given us. Being a good witness does not mean standing in a mall with your uniform and bucket and asking for money so you can perform more good deeds, again that is sending the wrong message. I was part of the Salvation army for a short period of time, and my wife and I started a youth group but we were told we were required to be soldiers before we could serve in that way. Again what message is that sending. For all the rules and regulations on the uniform and the push to make it so important to Christianity and then to tell your millions of followers that this is what we do as Christians and in the same breath tell them baptism is irrelevant, again so misleading.
    When I read these articles I can't help but notice the language of "army this" and "army that" but very rearly on Christ and how to best glorify him, yes there usually is a mention toward the end as token.
    My point being, lead people to repentance, show them a life of being lead by the holy spirit, teach them how to be a disciple of Christ and then, only then send them out to glorify Him.
    Just a few thoughts.

    On Thursday, February 12, 2015, Okari Geoffrey Gitaa said:

    I really love and cherish our army uniform. Whenever people see us, they think of a great army, fully equipped. Now, my cry is; my corps doesn't have a brass band. As part of our projects this year, we've organized for a fund drive to aid us in having atleast a few instruments. If anybody can help, please. contact me through my email okari.geoffrey@yahoo.com or call in at 254727636688. God bless you all, God bless our army.

    On Thursday, February 12, 2015, Cpt Milfred W.A.. Harper GDs rtd said:

    having wore uniforms since sixteen we can wear our uniform very proudly. with Pants pressed.
    Tunic un- wrinkled and pressed . Shoes highly polished and well kept.. Forage cap dusted for lint
    tie pressed and hung up.shirts cleaned and neatly pressed. The only thing I would change in
    uniform is that all soldiers and officers purchase a working uniform and this would keep our
    service uniform looking neat for when we enter the hallowed place of worship all folks should look
    to the altar for where JESUS is present. because I learned this from my Catholic Bros and Sis
    Will close for now take care and look for other views We should also have an army badge to wear for Promoted to Glory. One thing I would suggest is a bit of more color .
    Take care all and may the Peace of JESUS CHRIST be with us all and marching on in the Blood and the Lamb. GOD BLESS all.

    On Thursday, February 12, 2015, Gill Riley said:

    Stand up collar uniform will always win over new style. It's like comparing Dame Viiv Westwood with Prmkmark!

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