A new chapter in the history of the Canada and Bermuda Territory began this past weekend, September 16-17, as three significant events took place in Toronto: the installation of our new territorial leaders, Commissioners Lee and Debbie Graves, as territorial commander and territorial president of women’s ministries; the official opening and dedication of the new College for Officer Training (CFOT); and the welcome of 13 cadets as they embark on academic studies and practical field placements on their journey to full-time ministry as Salvation Army officers. 

Following a family-oriented worship service for cadets on Sunday morning, a capacity crowd gathered at Scarborough Citadel in the afternoon to greet Commissioners Graves and Colonels John and Lani Chamness, chief secretary and territorial secretary for women’s ministries, when they entered the sanctuary to the strains of William Gordon’s Laudes Domini as played by the Canadian Staff Band (Bandmaster John Lam). The territorial leaders immediately took their place on the platform to receive the traditional Salvation Army salute from each of the 13 cadets as they stood before them. 

Major Deana Zelinsky, training principal, expressed words of welcome to the congregation and those watching via live stream. Colonel Lani Chamness presented a call to worship from 1 Chronicles 9:10-13, and led the congregation in the opening song, Crown Him With Many Crowns

Continuing Covenant

The installation of Commissioners Graves was conducted by General Brian and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle, recently retired leaders of the international Salvation Army. Bob Barrett, a Salvationist from Commissioner Lee Graves’ home corps of St. Thomas Citadel, Ont., read from 1 Peter 1:15-22. Together with his wife, Joy, Bob has been a spiritual mentor to Commissioners Graves throughout their officership.

A group of cadets stand together in a church sanctuary
Thirteen cadets are welcomed to the College for Officer Training in Toronto

Commissioner Rosalie Peddle shared a message from General Lyndon Buckingham, international leader of The Salvation Army, who commended the new territorial leaders as people who are “dedicated to God and to the great purposes for which God raised up The Salvation Army.”

In his charge to the new territorial leaders, General Peddle shared from Ephesians 3:20, reminding them that our “immeasurably more” God is standing with them, for his honour and glory, in their commitment to lead the Canada and Bermuda Territory. “The new appointments which you are now entrusted with are a further expression of a continuing covenant that you’ve had with the Almighty,” the General said, referencing their covenants as soldiers and officers of The Salvation Army. 

As the Canadian Staff Songsters (Songster Leader Cathie Koehnen) sang Len Ballantine’s Reflecting His Likeness, Commissioners Graves, Colonels Chamness and the territorial portfolio leaders knelt at the mercy seat in a shared moment of prayer and dedication as they seek to lead the territory together. 

“My calling—my passion—remains unchanged,” shared Commissioner Debbie Graves as she addressed the congregation. “I want to be faithful to my Lord.”

Pioneers of New Training Model

Led by the music and arts ministries department’s worship team, the congregation raised their voices in songs of praise, including I Give You My Heart, before the training principal introduced the new cadets, explaining that they had come to CFOT from a variety of professions from as far east as Newfoundland and Labrador and as far west as Alberta. “These followers of Christ have responded to God’s call on their life,” Major Zelinsky said. “They embody a deep love for Jesus, a desire to go into the world and to preach the gospel to all creation…. They are the pioneers of a new training model, undergoing training in corps that are spread throughout the Greater Toronto Area and Quebec.” 

Major Paul Rideout, spiritual life development co-ordinator at CFOT, offered a prayer of dedication for the new cadets.

Four people cut a red ribbon
From left, Cdt Neil Thompson, Commissioners Lee and Debbie Graves, and Cdt Alecia McLeod participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new CFOT

The day before, Salvationists and friends gathered on the fourth floor of territorial headquarters for the official opening and dedication of the new CFOT, homebase for the new training model. The Honourable Robert Oliphant, Don Valley West member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, brought greetings before the territorial leaders cut the ceremonial ribbon and Commissioner Debbie Graves offered a prayer of dedication.

The learning centre is a bright and welcoming space designed to meet the educational needs of the officers in training that features two classrooms equipped for in-person and online lectures, study rooms, offices for CFOT staff, a boardroom and an inviting conversation area. In a nod to the rich history of officer training in the Canada and Bermuda Territory, two stained-glass windows that adorned previous training colleges are on display.  

A Glorious Calling

The Sunday afternoon meeting also featured selections from the Canadian Staff Songsters and the Canadian Staff Band, which presented Miriam Mary Richards and Andrew Mair’s Just Where He Needs Me and Martin Cordner’s Semper Fidelis, respectively. Cadet Hannah Chaulk and Cadet Wilder Jean-Charles, who spoke in French, testified about their calls to full-time ministry and personal journeys to CFOT.

In his message, Commissioner Lee Graves reminded those gathered that we are called to be champions of the mission of God. “It’s a glorious calling to be found faithful in the things of God and to serve him with wholeheartedness, passion and fire,” he proclaimed. “We get to serve the living God!” 

In the moments that followed, the territorial commander invited the cadets to kneel at the mercy seat. Surrounded by their families, spiritual mentors, officers and fellow Salvationists, the cadets were covered in prayer as they confirmed their commitment to the mission to which God has called them. 

Lt-Colonel Roxanne Jennings, secretary for personnel, led the congregation in the closing song, Greater Things, and pronounced the benediction.

Photos: Steve Nelson

Watch the Welcome Service


On Thursday, September 21, 2023, George Crocker said:

To God be the Glory give Him praise today.

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