When Colonel Lindsay Rowe looked ahead to retirement, he had only one destination in mind.
“I was born and raised in Chance Cove, N.L., but it’s not only my physical roots,” he says. “My spiritual roots are also here. Though I have spent so much time out of the country and away from Newfoundland, I’ve always said that while my feet left here many years ago, my heart never did.”
Colonel Lindsay is not the only one who feels that way. In a town of just 250 people, eight are retired officers. Together, they represent more than 300 years of active service in The Salvation Army.
In their case, however, retired hardly means inactive, as their ministry continues in the corps and the community.
Chance Cove is a picturesque Newfound-land fishing village, a charming collection of houses built along two C-shaped harbours. The Salvation Army has been at work in the town since 1901, and the corps is now a circuit ministry with Arnold’s Cove, with Major Beverley Dart-Stokes and Captain Anthony Stokes as corps officers.
Along with Colonel Lindsay, the town is home to his wife, Colonel Lynette Rowe, Lt-Colonels Audrey and Raymond Rowe, Major Lulu Brace and Majors Jacob and Mary Smith. Major Leah Snook is also a resident, but is unable to participate at the corps because of ill health. Her husband, Major Donald Snook, was promoted to glory earlier this year.
Colonels Lindsay and Lynette are the newest additions to the group, having retired and built a new house in Chance Cove last year. “The spot on which our retirement home sits was the original site of the home I was raised in, which my great-grandfather built 108 years before we took it down,” he says.
Retirement was also a homecoming for Lt-Colonel Raymond, Major Jacob and Major Lulu, who grew up in Chance Cove and now live on their family’s property. The officers have many family members in the area—the Rowes themselves are cousins—contributing to their sense of connectedness.
“It’s the type of community where you know just about everybody, even if they’re not Salvation Army,” says Major Mary, “and the people in the community are always very helpful.”
That spirit of helpfulness is abundant among the retirees, who are active in ministry at the corps. This assistance is much appreciated by the corps officers as they face the challenge of looking after two corps.
“The officers are quite busy and that has opened the door for us, as retired officers, to step in,” says Colonel Lindsay.
Lt-Colonel Raymond heads up the corps Bible study and men’s fellowship, while Lt-Colonel Audrey participates in women’s ministries and leads Bible studies at St. John’s Temple, N.L. Both are involved with corps council and the retired officers’ fellowship in St. John’s.
“For me, there’s still that sense of calling,” says Lt-Colonel Audrey. “And I think we’re all responsible to use our spiritual gifts. You may not be the leader, but you can offer your spiritual gifts and make an impact where you can on the lives of other people in your church setting or your community.”
Lt-Colonel Raymond agrees. “My officership is a lifelong calling—the only difference now is I don’t get paid,” he laughs.
As with the lt-colonels, Major Mary is a member of the corps council and she also leads the prayer shawl ministry. “I started it seven years ago, and since then our shawls have gone across Canada—one even went to Scotland,” she says. “We get an excellent response to the ministry. For example, I met a lady at the community centre recently who had cancer and was going for chemo, so the next time we met, I had a prayer shawl ready for her. She was thrilled and so surprised that a group of ladies would think enough about her to present something to her.”
Still settling in at Chance Cove, Colonels Lindsay and Lynette have been most active beyond the corps, specialling around the Newfoundland and Labrador Division. The Rowes spent more than 17 years in international service—most recently as territorial leaders in Tanzania—and are often called upon to share their experiences during the annual Partners in Mission campaign.
“It helps raise money because we are able to say, ‘This is where your money actually goes,’ and we can point out the projects that benefit from the campaign,” says Colonel Lindsay. “It brings Partners in Mission to life.”
Major Lulu has been the corps statistician for 25 years strong now, and until last year was also corps treasurer—a position she held for 24 years. She also attends Sunday meetings, Bible study and home league, and has her own ministry distributing Salvationist in nearby communities. When new issues are available, Major Lulu faithfully drives to Fair Haven and Arnold’s Cove and brings the magazine to people in their homes. “The people love it,” she notes. “They’re waiting for me to come.”
“They’re amazing, all of them,” says Major Dart-Stokes of the retired officers. “They’ll step up and do anything they can possibly do for us. They are our prayer warriors and they’re always there with encouragement.”
Beyond helping out at the corps, the officers are also a major support to one another.
“We’re a close-knit group,” says Colonel Lindsay. “We know each other well and we take care of each other.”
“Not everybody is on the same plane health-wise—some have health concerns—but we support them,” says Lt-Colonel Audrey. “We’re there, encouraging one another.”
The Smiths are particularly grateful for how the group has rallied around them during Major Jacob’s health challenges.
“About three years ago, my husband’s blood sugar went down to 1.9, and he was almost in a coma,” shares Major Mary. “As soon as they found out, Ray and Audrey, and our corps officer, Captain Anthony, who was in another community at the time, came here to see him before the ambulance took him to the hospital.
“I’m just glad that they’re there,” she continues. “If they can’t get to visit, they always make phone calls to see if there’s anything they can do.”
Major Jacob adds that the people in the corps are also very supportive. “When I had a stroke almost three years ago, they took my licence, and now when I go to the doctor, I’ve got to get a driver,” he says. “The corps folk volunteer to drive me.”
On a Journey
For Salvation Army officers, who have signed a lifelong covenant, settling into retirement can be a challenge.
“For the first year, I still wanted to get up and go to work every morning,” Lt-Colonel Raymond admits with a smile.
“I found it very difficult,” says Major Mary. “I had to retire due to sickness so I didn’t accept it at first. At one point, I was doing my devotions and I said, ‘Lord, I just can’t take any more.’ That’s when I heard a bird singing. When it stopped, I heard a voice say, ‘Lo, I am with you always.’ To me that was God telling me he was in control. I’m where God wants me to be.”
The days of full-time ministry are now behind them. But for these retired officers, the spiritual journey never ends.
“For our retirement Sunday, I wrote a song called God Isn’t Through With Us Yet,” says Colonel Lynette. “And whether it’s the home league or men’s fellowship or our speaking engagements, we have a sense of continued mission and ministry in our retirement.
“It’s wonderful to realize that we’re not just sitting and doing very little, but we’re always in preparation for something.”