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An inspiring celebration of 140 years of social service in Australia

Assistant Secretary for Mission Major Jenny Begent (second from left) and her ‘team’ during the 140th anniversary celebrations last week.

An impassioned call for all Salvos to continue their life-changing work in the community and bring beauty instead of ashes to a world that desperately needed it was a key theme of the Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate The Salvation Army’s 140 years of Social Services in Australia.

The special thanksgiving event to celebrate the Salvos’ social and spiritual service to the community was held at Project 614 in Melbourne on Sunday and officially concluded the 140th-anniversary celebrations held across five days. The international conference highlighted the significant milestone of the Army’s Social Services with the theme ‘Everybody Has A Work To Do.’

The Melbourne Staff Songsters performed at the service.

Several highlights of the service included special prayers and worship to thank God for the past 140 years and to commit to a life of future service to God and others, plus a message of reflection by Colonel Winsome Merrett, a lament by Major Brad McIver, music by Melbourne Staff Band and Songsters and worship ensemble, Scripture readings, and a personal testimony by Aux-Lieutenant Mark Curtis. Territorial Commander Commissioner Miriam Gluyas delivered the main address, with the benediction undertaken by Major Jenny Begent, Assistant Secretary for Mission.

As organiser of the 140th-anniversary event, Jenny said the thanksgiving service was an appropriate end to an “incredible and amazing” week of celebrations for the Army’s Social Services.

“We have had a fabulous week that has focused on the relevance of faith-based services in Australia today,” she said.

Commissioner Miriam Gluyas delivered a moving and rousing address at the service.

“The quality of speakers was outstanding and provoked much thoughtful discussion. The delegates from Norway, Denmark, UK, Canada and US territories provided a view of the international army that reminded us of our global community.

“It was wonderful to finish off the conference with a worship service of celebration. Commissioner Miriam reminded us of our need to continue the work of redemption for all people, reminding us of the conference theme: ‘Everybody Has A Work To DO’. Thank you so much to all who attended and participated; you made it a wonderful time of remembrance of the past and hope for the future.”

Miriam delivered an impassioned address centred on inspiration from Isaiah 61 and its message around the ‘oaks of righteousness’, plus the parables of the sower and the fig tree that bore no fruit.

“We are called to be oaks of righteousness, ready to help, ready to be there,” she said.

“For 140 years we’ve been there ... hopefully hundreds of years to come. All around this world, people are called to be oaks of righteousness. Why? To bring beauty instead of ashes. We need to bring beauty instead of ashes to a world that desperately needs Jesus right now.

“Sow kindness, sow love, sow joy, sow hope, sow Jesus. Don’t ever let us be a fig tree that doesn’t bring fruit. We are a mission movement. We are in this together. There’s a world out there that is desperately lonely. A world that needs Jesus. We are his plan. There is no other.”

Colonel Winsome Merrett reflected on the work that people of faith in Christ are called to do in the community.

Colonel Winsome Merrett reflected on the inspiring work of William and Catherine Booth, Mother Teresa and George Müller and how they fulfilled the callings and purpose on their lives.

“The theme of this conference has been ‘Everybody Has A Work To Do’. Not all of us are a William or Catherine Booth, or a Mother Teresa or a George Müller, but as people of faith in Christ, we each have a work to do, and it’s special,” she said.

“The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, says it this way: For we are God’s handiwork created in Jesus Christ to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Just to be clear, this is not saying that our works will redeem us or be a ticket for eternity. What that Scripture passage is saying is that in giving us new life through belief in the work of Jesus on the cross, we become a demonstration of God’s workmanship; we are recreated for good works that God has designed for us to accomplish.

“We know that we are not saved by our good works, but rather God has saved us for good works. Mother Teresa said the good you do today may have been forgotten tomorrow ... do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.”

Miriam shared an example of good work being undertaken that significantly impacted a person’s life, which was a practical demonstration of the love of Jesus. She told the story of a gentleman who gained employment and help in other areas of his life thanks to the Employment Plus team. In a message to his worker after he gained employment, he ended with a thankful and impactful comment: “Ultimately, you guys saved my life,” the gentleman said. “And you didn’t even know it.”

Mark’s story

Aux-Lieutenant Mark Curtis, Mission Leader of Garden of Hope in Western Australia, shared his incredible journey of traversing extremely challenging times. He related his life of substance abuse, losing everything and even experiencing a stint in jail – and how thankful he was to meet the Salvos who changed his life for the better. He became a follower of Jesus and now has a leadership role with the Salvos.

Aux-Lieutenant Mark Curtis shared his testimony at the service and how The Salvation Army changed his life for the better.

“Back in the 1880s, when God called William Booth out of the building, he said to him to step outside the church and start meeting people where they are at. That’s what we are called to do. We need to start walking towards them,” Mark said.

“The Salvos shield is like a beacon. The amazing thing is that we don’t have to go in for the lost; they walk towards us already. It’s love that changes someone’s life. We are called to love each other. We are never going to get perfect. We are called to love each other in the darkness.”

Mark added that Isaiah 49 was an inspiration for his life.

“I love the picture of being in God’s hands,” he said. “I want to go into the prayer closest and be in his hands. Don’t be scared of the darkness. Love one another. Thank God that William Booth was obedient to the call.”

Miriam reiterated being thankful for the past 140 years of Social Services, the importance of reaching out to others and giving hope, and the importance of the Salvos creating communities where people were loved, served, known and celebrated.

“These can be the best years for the Salvation Army,” she said. “Let’s do what God is calling us to do. Let’s be the people that God is calling us to be. Let’s do communities of hope. Let’s sit around a table to talk about life and faith and get on mission together.

“Let’s get into our social places – and help in every way we can.”

The Melbourne Staff Band performed at the service.


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