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Jul9ThuA retired Salvation Army officer finds a surprising new ministry. July 9, 2020 by Major Gary Venables
(Above) Mjr Gary Venables posts a short musical piece on Facebook every Monday morning as a time of worship
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It all started with a Christmas gift of a pocket cornet five years ago. While I was giving it a try, playing an old prayer chorus, my son-in-law shot a short video. I posted it on Facebook to show my older brother, who lived in Ottawa at the time, although he has since passed away. I knew others would be able to see it, but I didn’t think anyone else would be interested.
To my surprise, there were several comments from Salvationist friends,expressing how nice it was to hear one of the old songs. One even suggested I post a video every Monday morning, “to get the week off to a good start.” While I suspected he wasn’t totally serious, I thought I would comply with the suggestion by posting one or two. I called it “Monday Morning Meditation.”
The response was overwhelming. Within weeks, views, likes and comments increased in large numbers. I received requests to lengthen the meditation from playing once through a chorus to something more substantial, and to make the posts available for sharing.
Friend requests, shares and comments from the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and even Africa were, at the same time, gratifying and humbling. It seemed evident that a door had opened to a ministry I never would have anticipated.
From the first, I thought it was important to include the precious words to these old songs and choruses. In many cases, contemporary worship songs don’t contain the depth of theology of the older songs. This theological richness makes them a strong teaching tool, second only to the Bible.
The way music marries lyrics and harmonies helps the words sink in. I can hear a melody and not only am I tantalized by the sound, but it brings me into deeper understanding and communication with God. It’s a form of meditation. I try to sing the songs with my cornet, and people feel they can sing along with me.
Sometimes a song will just pop in to my mind, and other times I look through the Salvation Army song book. I try to choose songs that are meaningful, without repeating any. I record five or six meditations at a time and add the lyrics before making the weekly posts on Monday morning. This has enabled me to post regularly, having missed only two postings in five years. The views can be anywhere from 500 to 2,000.
After more than 40 years of service as a Salvation Army officer, this ministry has been an unexpected blessing in retirement. Surprise and delight have accompanied this opportunity to serve, as friends and strangers alike approach me, acknowledging and expressing gratitude for the new ministry God has given me.
I play in the London Citadel Band and I’m the principal cornet player for the divisional seniors’ band. A few years ago, the London Citadel Band went on a trip to the U.S.A. Southern Territory, and every place we stopped, somebody said, “You’re the guy who plays on Monday mornings!” That happens quite regularly whenever we leave the corps and go out.
The number of people who look forward to Monday Morning Meditation as a devotional time continues to surprise and humble me. I think it’s not so much my playing as the fact that I’m reintroducing some of the old music that people don’t hear regularly. This is God’s ministry and I’m grateful he’s using me for it. Opportunities for ministry are more plentiful and available than one can dream of. All it takes is an open mind, a willing heart and a response to the Holy Spirit’s urging.
Major Gary Venables is a retired Salvation Army officer who attends London Citadel, Ont. You can view Monday Morning Meditation on his Facebook page.