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Jan14ThuI came to The Salvation Army through banding, but I found so much more. January 14, 2021 by Chris Lemon-Sarris
My first visit to a Salvation Army building was for a Kiwanis Music Festival in Grade 8. As I played my trumpet in the sanctuary at London Citadel, Ont., I had no idea that The Salvation Army was more than just a charitable organization.
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Throughout high school, I had some amazing teachers and role models, including John Lam, the bandmaster at London Citadel and the Canadian Staff Band. He invited me to Thursday night rehearsals, no strings attached, to be part of a group with similar musical interests. Soon, I was also playing floor hockey on Wednesday nights and going to services on Sunday.
A year later, in 2012, I was invited to attend National Music Camp. I was so excited for a week away, a week of making music with my friends. I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to experience. It was the first time I felt such a deep and strong connection to God, and I gave my life fully over to the Lord.
Nick Simmons-Smith, bandmaster of The Salvation Army’s Southern Territorial Band, was the special guest that year. Not only is he a talented musician, he is a wonderful Salvationist and spiritual leader who took the time to explain the meaning and importance of the words behind the music.
Playing Wilfred Heaton’s Just as I Am—“Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bid’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come!”—marked the defining moment when I realized God has a plan for my life. These words have been engraved on my mind and heart ever since.
I knew that the life I wanted to live fit the role of a soldier in The Salvation Army, and I was enrolled at London Citadel on April 28, 2013. Shortly after, I was invited to join the band on second cornet, and later soprano cornet.
Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to share my gifts through annual concerts in and around London, as well as trips to Kentucky to perform alongside Canadian trumpeter and guest soloist Jens Lindemann, and a tour of the southern United States, from Atlanta to Dallas. Everything came full circle for me as we met Nick Simmons-Smith in Atlanta for the first leg of the tour.
This was a life-changing trip. It wasn’t about the travel, the time away from school, the concerts or the crowds. For me, it was about why we play the music. Both John Lam and Nick Simmons-Smith have always reminded us that using our gifts to glorify God has much deeper meaning than just a band concert.
On this tour, I realized that people sometimes go through hard times just trying to get by, and music is a way to minister to them. Playing in a room full of people yearning to hear it, I felt like we had made a difference. There is no greater gift than using my abilities to worship God and helping others to do the same.
Although I’ve had struggles with my spiritual and musical journey, the countless moments of fellowship at London Citadel have always kept me close. There are so many people who have supported and helped me when I was down by simply grabbing my hand, taking me to Tim Hortons and just talking with me. This helped a lot after I decided to take a step away from studying music at university and chose a different education and career path.
This has been a tough year, with a global pandemic and lots of personal change, and it hasn’t always been easy to stay positive. But I’m thankful that God has a plan for me, and that if I keep listening, he will lead and guide me. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
As a Salvationist, I focus my ministry abilities on brass banding. It’s how I came to the Army and music is how I feel most connected. I continue to play in the band at London Citadel and I also assist the youth bands. I do my best to share my story and be an example, as others have been for me.
Sometimes I try to put the puzzle together, of how I ended up where I am now. But truthfully, it doesn’t matter. I’m just glad that it did.
Adapted from MAGAzine.
Photo: Holly Perry