To God Be the Glory - Salvation Army Canada

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  • Mar5Thu

    To God Be the Glory

    Behind the Salvation Army salute. March 5, 2020 by Captain Sheldon Bungay
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    Throughout history, simple hand gestures have served as a form of human communication, conveying meaning and allowing people to identify themselves with a group. Think of the military salute, the “thumbs up” gesture or the Scout sign. On many occasions, I have seen motorcyclists give a left-handed, low wave to acknowledge a comrade passing in the opposite direction. A raised, clenched fist is symbolic of unity in the midst of struggle. Placing your hand over your heart during an anthem is viewed as patriotic. My mother-in-law’s two outstretched hands mean I’m about to be embraced.

    Did you know that The Salvation Army also has a salute? We raise the index finger of our right hand above shoulder height, pointing to God, as a way of saying that God deserves all glory and praise.

    At a recent emergency disaster response, I was asked, “When will The Salvation Army finally get rid of its military terminology and those silly uniforms?” Even within the Army, there are those who think it’s time to do away with some of our symbols and traditions. Is the Army salute meaningful? What purpose does it serve? I had never put much thought into it. Until yesterday.

    It was my great privilege to serve as a pallbearer for Major Lorraine Abrahamse, a fellow officer and a friend. It was a beautiful service of celebration as we honoured her life and ministry and rejoiced in her “promotion to glory.” Unsurprisingly, there were many Salvation Army officers present, both active colleagues and the retirees who blazed the trail before us. At the end of the service, all officers present were invited to form an honour guard to flank both sides of our colleague as we carried her casket out of the sanctuary. As we made our way to the beginning of the honour guard, something happened that I did not expect, and its impact will remain with me for the rest of my life and ministry.

    As the casket reached the first officers in the guard, they began to quietly and solemnly raise their right index fingers in salute. The salute continued as we passed each officer. It wasn’t long before the magnitude of the moment became almost too much for my emotions to handle, and my eyes overflowed so that I could hardly see where I was going.

    Why? Well, I’m still processing what it all meant to me, but I know this for sure. I am blessed to have been called to work with some of the greatest people on earth, people who give of themselves tirelessly to meet basic human needs and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in whichever city or town The Salvation Army appoints them. Are any of them perfect? No, but some of them have sacrificed so much to respond to the life of ministry, often working with limited resources and expected to meet whatever task is placed before them each day.

    As I watched the faces of my colleagues that day, I was profoundly aware that many of them have been forced to deal with criticism; have forfeited meals and time with their own families to respond to a hospital call or a grieving family; have wrestled with their own convictions and studied hard to determine what God is leading them to say or do; and, often with limited skills, have worn many hats in ministry, required to be administrators, business professionals, pastoral counsellors and public orators, one minute planning events for children, and the next for seniors.

    In each of their appointments, they have been compared to those who have gone before, and—in the minds of some—did things better. Given that they will eventually move on to another community and another appointment, there are whole generations of officers who have no idea what it feels like to establish lifelong friendships. Some, like my friend Lorraine, have to come to terms with the reality that none of us are immune to sickness and death. And yet, they seek no praise. Instead, they raise their index finger and silently say, “To God be the glory.”

    Captain Sheldon Bungay is the divisional youth secretary in the Newfoundland and Labrador Division.


    On Friday, March 13, 2020, Calvin Collins said:

    As an Officer and for more than 40 years I love and respect The salvation Army very much. Many of our symbols are unique to us as salvationists and we should keep them. Other Churches have their rites and rituals etc... and there is little or no talk about getting rid of it because it is old fashion or our of date; so why do many within our Organization feel its time to get rid of this or that or something else regarding our traditions - who we are? Remember the more we throw out the less of an identity we will have. Let's keep our identity as The Salvation Army. Its nothing to be ashamed of. I find that many, many people, even today, still show great respect when they see a SA uniform


    On Monday, March 9, 2020, Darlene sutton said:

    Beautifully written, I’m very proud in an humble way to belong to this wonderful Army. I pray we never get rid of our identity that separates us from other churches. I was touched by your article Sheldon God bless you and the Salvation Army


    On Monday, March 9, 2020, Barb z Townsend said:

    Why do all the tried and true things that represent great works,have to be tossed aside and changed to generic junk. The Salvation Army is in the Army for God and as such should be distinguished by their personalized uniforms. If you join a group of any kind and they have a uniform,wear it proudly or don't join the group. Be proud to be in a group of folks who give of themselves and if you can't do that resign.


    On Friday, March 6, 2020, Lucy Tuck said:

    Indeed, TO GOD BE THE GLORY AND ALL HONOUR AND PRAISE. Please keep the Army the way it is don’t change, love the uniform...


    On Friday, March 6, 2020, CSM Richard Parr said:

    I have been in The Salvation Army for over 36 years I would not want to loose the uniforms or Salute they set us apart for Christ. God Bless The Salvation Army


    On Friday, March 6, 2020, Peck Koopman said:

    The is actually saying: I am on my way to heaven


    On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Jackson Christy said:

    Amazing. God Bless Salvation Army and Respected Officer's.


    On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Doreen payne said:

    A great article. Major Lorraine was from my home town and I knew her well. An amazing lady who faced life head on no matter what the situation was. God and the Salvation Army was her life, her stronghold when life kept throwing her curve balls. She would have been proud of her fellow officers who saluted her as her body was being wheeling out of the sanctuary one last lime. Keep the uniforms and the salute. Everyone respects the S A. Don’t lose something that help set you apart from other. William Booth would never want that to change.


    On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Stephen Court said:

    The Salvation Army salute, often accompanied by a hearty, 'Hallelujah!' is unspoken code for, "I'm on my way to heaven and I'm doing everything I can to get everyone I can to join me!" I used it earlier today. Praise God. Much grace.


    On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Local officer Raymond Friday ,Boise Idaho said:

    Been with the Army for over 43yrs and I can tell you how the army has change not to my liking I know the world has change so much in 43 yrs but raising the index finger I see no issuer by doing it just telling every one the decease has been promoted to Glory.


    On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Concerned said:

    An excellent commentary that really should not be needed. But as the Army drifts further and further away from its roots, declines in size and influence and becomes more a social service agency than a unique evangelical denomination there will be fewer expressions of Salvationism to comment on. I for one am appreciative this reflection was written.


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