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Aug22TueMeet the territory’s local officers forum. August 22, 2017 by Commissioner Susan McMillan
A few months after I returned to Canada and Bermuda as territorial commander, I came across an item in the “pending” section of the agenda of one of our territorial headquarters (THQ) boards: “Local Officers Forum.” What was that? Who was on it? When did it meet? I decided to inquire.
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As it turned out, it hadn’t been formed yet—it was just a thought that was recorded for another time. I felt the time was now. I thought it was important to understand our local officers, know the challenges they face, communicate with them and let them know how valuable they are to the organization. But finding a way to reach out to local officers from across the territory had been a stumbling block. Thankfully, we had the solution in our THQ boardroom: a state-of-the-art system for video conferencing.
The forum started small and has now grown to nine local officers, along with the corps ministries secretary, secretary for program, chief secretary and myself. The local officers are corps sergeant majors (CSMs) who love to minister alongside their corps officers. The CSM is the highest role of lay leadership in our churches—they are leaders who are committed to the Army’s mission in their community and are able to glean and share information from other corps members.
The forum meets every other month for about an hour and a half to discuss topics that are of interest to both the local officers and territorial leadership. Someday, we hope to meet face to face, but for now we are images on computer screens.
For me as territorial commander, it has been a worthwhile addition to my intelligence gathering, as I hear directly from these CSMs what is working and what isn’t in terms of how we are resourcing the territory. Then I am able to share with them new developments in resources that may be helpful. So far, we have discussed soldiership and our territory’s new curriculum for the preparation of new soldiers. We have discussed how to interest corps in youth work and encourage candidates for officership, as well as special events such as Easter outreach and leadership development within the corps. We’ve also discussed evangelism—our main purpose as The Salvation Army!
I am pleased to introduce the nine members of the local officers forum to the territory.
St. John’s Citadel, Newfoundland and Labrador Division
I am a fourth-generation Salvationist, a fourth-generation CSM and a proud member of the Fellowship of the Silver Star. I have done many “jobs” in the corps from teaching Sunday school and junior soldier preparation classes, to puppet ministry and songsters. My leadership in the corps is mainly “committee” focused these days, but I am trying to inspire people to step outside their comfort zone and get more involved. In this role, I am spending more time on my knees. I have always said that the best thing you can do is pray. Because of my role, I know more of the issues people are facing and I can’t help but pray for them individually, as opposed to a general “bless them” without having knowledge. I am able to pray intentionally and specifically.
Mississauga Temple Community Church, Ontario Central-East Division
As CSM for three years, I continue to marvel at the ministry opportunities that come to me and feel privileged to be a leader in God’s church. This Easter, we held an EggStravaganza at the corps. Notices went out to the community, but mainly to our daycare and family services clients. More than 250 people attended, including over 150 children—many of whom had never come through the doors of our church before. It took 80 volunteers from the corps to make it happen. It was wonderful!
At a recent corps council meeting, as we examined the reports submitted by various ministries, the one word we kept hearing and seeing was “outreach.” We acknowledged that we have to stay a healthy church spiritually in order to reach out to others. And we have plans in place to look at all the names on our rolls, break them down into categories and contact everyone in one way or another.
Saskatoon Temple, Prairie Division
I have served as CSM for just over a year but have held many different positions within the corps over the last 20 years. I was youth ministries director for more than 10 years, and I continue to be involved with many aspects of our youth ministry.
One girl who started attending our youth programs through our van ministry would have constant breakdowns week after week. We had been working with her to help her work through her outbursts and be successful at our programs.
One day I was sitting with her at the supper table, talking about her week, when she asked me, “Kerri, why do people throw rocks at me?” I was shocked and heartbroken. My answer was, “I don’t know.” She went on to say, “Kerri, why are you always so nice to me even if I don’t always act good?” This was my opportunity to share with her that because I love God, I want her to know that she is loved, too, no matter what mistakes she makes. The transformation in this young woman from outbursts every week to none in three years is remarkable.
Mountain Citadel, Hamilton, Ontario Great Lakes Division
I have been on the corps mission board for seven years and was commissioned as CSM in October 2016. I’m also involved with banding at the corps and with the corps’ public relations.
As the CSM, I feel that I am accountable for the corps people. As officers come and go, it’s the CSM who keeps the vision moving forward. Not only are you serving the Lord, but you’re also providing support to the corps officers, the congregation and the community.
As I’ve only been in the position a short time, I’m still learning the ins and outs. But it’s a great position—you get to know the people of your corps and learn about everything. I give a lot of time, but I know the final reward is worth it. It’s a calling—one that cannot be taken lightly.
Glenmore Temple, Calgary, Alberta and Northern Territories Division
I’m originally from Corner Brook Citadel, N.L., but have worked as a petroleum engineer in Calgary since 1983. For 16 years, I have been the CSM at Glenmore Temple, where I sit on the mission board and am an active band and choir member.
My corps is a large urban church with more than 120 years of history. Among the most compelling questions we ask ourselves are: “What does our future look like? Where should we be in 10 or 20 years?” We recently spent some time as a mission board and congregation laying out a strategic plan to provide us with the underpinning values that will help us build a more detailed plan for our future. This type of strategic work is important to help corps officers (current and future) continue a consistent “move forward” plan for the church. As the CSM, it was my job to lead this effort.
Centre Communautaire Chrétien de Rosemont, Montreal, Quebec Division
I became a senior soldier in 2007 and was commissioned as CSM in 2012. Along with my involvement with various ministries at the corps—including leading a prayer group at my home on Thursdays—I work at the Montreal Booth Centre, where I lead morning devotions every weekday. I am also a member of the pastoral committee of Le Phare—the corps at the Booth Centre.
I gave a sermon on grace and forgiveness at a recent prayer meeting at Le Phare. One of our new clients, who was not a Christian, fell to the floor and publicly confessed his sins in tears. After that, we all prayed for him together. Something special happened to him that evening. He still attends various services at the Booth Centre and we keep praying for him, believing the best is yet to come.
Fairview Citadel, Halifax, Maritime Division
At my corps, where I have been CSM for 20 years, we are at a critical crossroad as we try to better understand where we can make the most impact in our community. Over the past two decades, Fairview has become a diverse, multicultural community with a high proportion of Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants. About half of our food bank clients are recent immigrants. Under the direction of our corps officers, we are networking with other churches, politicians and community support groups to define where we can best “meet the need.”
I enjoy assisting with the new café at our corps, a free service for food bank clients. It is an honour to have coffee with them and hear their stories. I once met a young Christian family from Syria who left their homeland after their church was bombed during Sunday worship. We offered encouragement and practical help through the food bank and café.
Comox Valley Ministries, Courtenay, British Columbia Division
It has been my privilege to offer leadership in the various corps and churches I have attended throughout my life—from Saint John, N.B., to Port Alberni, B.C., as well as overseas in Nagoya, Japan. Today, I am the CSM and community ministries director for The Salvation Army’s Comox Valley Ministries on Vancouver Island.
As CSM, my role is to come alongside our corps officers as a support, confidant, friend and servant. A highlight of this is pastor appreciation Sunday in October. It can be a humbling experience for our officers and their family. It’s also a time of growth for our congregation, as we recognize the incredible expectations we place on our pastors. As we express our love and gratitude through words of encouragement, we are brought into a closer relationship with God and the shepherds he has chosen to care for us.
North Street Citadel, Hamilton, Bermuda Division
I have been a local officer for 18 years and CSM for three. For just over a year, most of the leaders of our corps have been engaged in a leadership development process, which I have led with the assistance of the corps officers and two experienced coaches (both from the corps). The process has been transformational. It has reinforced the fact that we, as leaders, are directly responsible for the spiritual climate of our corps.
Leadership training is a hot topic these days and has sadly been neglected in the church for too long. That’s why I am so pleased that it’s one of our territory’s seven strategic priorities as we mobilize our great Army. I believe that when we get our leaders equipped, motivated and passionate about removing silos and working together to reach our communities, we will see both qualitative and quantitative growth in our congregations. All of the dreams and aspirations for our ministries will remain unrealized if there’s no one to lead them.