The positive message that Christians should be 'the happiest people in the world' was given by General André Cox when he and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women’s Ministries) led 135th corps anniversary meetings at Exeter Temple, in the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland.
On Saturday afternoon, following a civic reception for the visitors, a hail storm did not stop the corps band leading a march down the High Street. As it reached the ancient Guildhall the General took the salute, accompanied by Commissioner Silvia, the Lord Mayor – Councillor Olwen Margaret Foggin – and Consort Gerald Foggin. An open-air meeting at Cathedral Green followed, at which many contacts were made.
Back at the hall, a history zone detailed the beginnings of The Salvation Army in the city, including a 19th-century proclamation by the council forbidding Salvationists from open-air preaching and marching. Other stands featured the life and mission of the corps today.
During a celebratory buffet tea the corps family shared informal fellowship with the General and Commissioner Cox. A further reception for civic and church leaders included the Lord-Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon, and the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev Robert Atwell.
At the evening celebration the General urged people to be true to their calling. The programme included music by the corps sections and a Bible reading by the young adult home group. Using a multimedia presentation, corps officer Major Carol Young highlighted corps activities and outreach.
On Sunday, the prayer meeting focused on the international Salvation Army. During morning worship, themed 'People Of Purpose', Commissioner Cox shared some of her spiritual journey, which challenged many. Gillian Taylor was enrolled as an adherent before testifying to a deeper dedication of her life to God. Junior Soldier Amelia Woolway brought the Bible reading and was then presented with a new Bible by Commissioner Cox.
In his Bible message the General gave the challenge: ‘We need to fulfil our calling if we are to continue to exist.’ He explained that God wants his people to have a relationship with him, not only to feel good but to fulfil his will. Following the General’s message, many people knelt in dedication at the mercy seat.
The meeting concluded with the congregation affirming in song, ‘Lord, if your presence does not go with us, please do not send us up from here.’
Afterwards, celebration cake was served to the congregation by the international leaders, who then went to the community hall to speak with guests who are either homeless or vulnerably housed and attend each Sunday for lunch.