The message from the Founders’ Day evening session of Boundless 2015 was clear – William and Catherine Booth began The Salvation Army exactly 150 years ago, but the call to win the world for Christ must be answered by today’s Salvationists.
Highlights of the evening included the posthumous admitting of former General Eva Burrows to the Order of the Founder, The Salvation Army’s highest honour, and the launching of the new song book.
The programme began with a drama showing a group of missioners outside the Blind Beggar public house in east London on 2 July 1865. When they asked a young William Booth to ‘have a word’, his reply was clear and loud: SALVATION!
General André Cox strode onto the stage and asked: ‘What better day than today to renew our commitment to salvation and the fight?’
Tribute was paid to Catherine Booth, who was recognised as equal partner in her husband’s work. Never commissioned, the congregation heard, she never held a rank – except for Mother of The Salvation Army.
The recognition of one remarkable woman led to the honouring of another, with the admittance to the Order of the Founder of former General Eva Burrows, who was promoted to Glory earlier this year. A video from General Eva’s thanksgiving service showed her at her passionate best, declaring: ‘I never wanted to live my way, I always wanted to live [God’s] way.’
Presenting the award to Australia Southern Territorial Commander Commissioner Floyd Tidd, on behalf of General Eva’s family, the General said that the life and service of Eva Burrows ‘would have recommended itself to our Founder. She inspired countless people around the world.’
A medley of old-time Salvation Army songs led by the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner William A. Roberts) and a slick presentation by London Citadel Timbrels led to thoughts on music by the General.
‘Music is something that touches the soul,’ he said, launching the new Song Book of the Salvation Army. ‘Music can lift and inspire.’
He paid tribute to the work that had gone into the new tune and song books, saying: ‘We are and always have been a singing Army. William Booth instructed his Army to sing so as to make the whole world hear.’
Pasadena Tabernacle Youth Chorus took the General’s words to heart with the gospel-style ‘Right Time, Right Place’.
While Ayoung Lee sang ‘Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?’ the image of a stained-glass window appeared at back of stage, showing Salvationists counselling a seeker around a drum. As the song ended the window came to life, with each of the characters stepping forward to read a Scripture passage referring to blood or fire.
A united call to ‘Send this Fire on Me’ was taken up in the congregational song ‘This Fire’, led by transMission. Giant screens at the front and more around the side filled the auditorium with bright, flickering flames until it seemed as if fire really had descended on every person present!
After the Bible reading by Commissioner Nancy Roberts (World Secretary for Women’s Ministries), Pasadena Songsters presented its own tribute to William Booth, ‘Boundless’, a lively new arrangement of the Founder’s Song, ‘O Boundless Salvation!’
Commissioner William Cochrane (International Secretary to the Chief of the Staff) gave a thoughtful and personal Bible message.
He spoke of being moved at the unveiling of a new statue of Catherine Booth in east London earlier in the day, suggesting that her addition alongside her husband gave a message that ‘your gender is of no consequence’.
He added: ‘Gender, race, intellectual capacity, your physical strength doesn’t matter. Nothing but the grace of God in your life.’
He challenged the congregation members to give their all to God for him to use. ‘The world needs to see us,’ he said. ‘We need to stop being invisible. By wearing a uniform of some kind – but most of all by the extent in which people see Jesus Christ in our words, deeds and actions.’
Four soldiers read the Lord’s Prayer, the first in English, then joined by one speaking in Korean, then one in Spanish, and one in French Creole until a cacophony of prayer filled the auditorium. The four languages were also used to add emphasis to a reading of the Founder’s ‘I’ll Fight!’ speech.
The giant screens then showed people from many nations declaring: ‘I am The Salvation Army’ before the General reappeared onstage to add his voice: ‘I am The Salvation Army – and I’ll fight to the very end.’ Pointing to the crowd, he added the challenge: ‘And you? And you? Will you fight to the end?’
With the backdrop of a giant ‘blood-and-fire’-emblem star, Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women’s Ministries) closed the session by offering praise through prayer in passionate French, thanking God again and again for all he is doing.