(Above) Salvation Army cadets lead a worship service in Brandon, Man., as part of a farewell brigade to corps in the Winnipeg area. From left, Cdts Kerrin Fraser, Krishna McFarlane, Natalia DeBoer, Brian DeBoer and Tim Fraser
When news broke that The Salvation Army’s College for Officer Training would move from Winnipeg to Toronto as of September 2023, there was a meeting called between staff officers and representatives of the cadet body to navigate the impact on our training experience. Out of this meeting, an idea formed to hold a travelling farewell brigade, to thank each of the five corps in Winnipeg, and in Brandon, which have blessed cadets with practical learning opportunities and poured into us over the past 17 years.
Although the five campus-based cadets—Kerrin and Tim Fraser, Krishna McFarlane, and my wife, Natalia, and I—took the lead in planning a worship service to be shared at each corps, this farewell was not simply about our experience. It was also for those who were field-based cadets—Stephanie and Jeremy Avery, Miya Bradburn and Jeff Robertson, Justin and Kaitlin Russell—as well as Aux-Captains Glenna Cryderman and Nancy Harrison.
And it was for all the officers who trained in Winnipeg, including our mission and ministry teacher, Captain Shawna Goulding, who organized much of the practical connections with the corps. It was for those who cut their teeth in ministry aiding the efforts with the Red River Floods, and for those who were in training during the early days of the pandemic, as Major Steven Cameron noted.
Each service had the same overall elements, though we all took different responsibilities. We began with a message from our training principal, Major Deana Zelinsky, recorded in the CFOT chapel. We also had several former cadets join in the reading of Scripture in a video, which was special. A different cadet preached at each corps, but all from the same text: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6).
Each cadet brought a different take on this text, based on the inspiration of the Spirit. Cadet Tim Fraser preached about thankfulness, Cadet Natalia DeBoer challenged believers to spend time with God and Cadet Kerrin Fraser pointed to God’s partnership with us in ministry.
As I noted in my sermon at Weetamah Corps, where I served in first year, we are partners in the gospel. Just as Paul’s partnership with the Philippians continued even when he was in jail, our partnership continues despite the move. It is the same gospel we strive to share wherever we may serve.
The songs included in the service were meaningful to the cadets. I shared an original song called We Thank God: “God who began a good work in you / will carry it on and will see it through. / He’s our faithful God, that’s what He will do / until the day of Jesus Christ.” Cadet Krishna McFarlane contributed a song from her upbringing in Jamaica that says “we’ll greet somebody in Jesus’ name.” This upbeat Caribbean welcoming melody amazingly ran seamlessly into the chorus from a song called All the People Said Amen by Matt Maher that the cadets encountered from a service when the chief secretary visited. The song The Blessing has held deep significance for the cadets since Cadet Jeff Robertson led a service where we faced one another to sing over one other and the Spirit moved in a serious way. The idea to include the Spanish verse came from a moving rendition we had heard in a World Day of Prayer service we participated in over Zoom.
At first, I had in mind that we would be going to the corps to bless them. And yet, they made room for us, they relinquished their normal opportunities to lead and express worship in their unique ways, making room for our leadership. They fit us into their packed calendars even though it was Mother’s Day when we went to Brandon. Occasionally, they even filled our bellies after God had filled our hearts in our times of shared worship. The corps showed us grace upon grace. There was no doubt a blessing in each community of faith from our sharing and leadership.
This farewell brigade, from the first idea to the many moments when the Spirit showed up, was clearly a gift from God. It was a blessing, as it was always intended to be. And I find myself chief among the recipients of God’s grace through it.
Cadet Brian DeBoer is a member of the Reflectors of Holiness Session and will be commissioned as part of the INSPIRE conference and congress.