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Meet the Officer – Captain Neil Gray


1. What is your current appointment and what do you find most satisfying about it? 

My current appointment is as Corps Officer, Palmerston NT, and SAES Response Coordinator NT, both located in beautiful Darwin, Northern Territory. I find great satisfaction in the change of focus this appointment has brought about. To shift from a managerial and clinical mindset to a ‘kingdom outcome’ mindset has been such a welcome change. What is satisfying about this is found in the space, time and room I have as an officer to really meditate upon and consider how I spend my time rather than simply working to a position description or otherwise commercial agenda. The lens this work is viewed through is the ‘kingdom outcome’ lens, and that deserves focus. It’s a satisfying way to approach the work.


2. Away from the appointment – if that’s possible! – what do you do to relax or unwind? 

I have been an avid student of karate (Soo Bahk Do) for around 14 years now. It has provided such a good balance of exercise and skills development over the years. I tried riding pushbikes for a while, but I was at risk of being arrested for cruelty to bicycles, so I don’t do that so much anymore but I do enjoy it.


I am a musician and love to play music whenever I can. If I can’t get away with playing an instrument – say whilst driving a car or eating a raw sandwich, or having an important meeting and/or conversation etc. – then there will always be a good-quality speaker of some species playing some fully sick tunes not far away from me.


I really love mowing lawns. I commentate the event as though it’s a sport on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) or something. There are usually three commentators, and they commentate on style, speed, and chosen height of blade, and they come up with all sorts of history for the sport of lawn mowing. For example, here is an excerpt from the recent mow on the weekend just passed:


Think ‘American Football’ commentators, or it won’t work!


Commentator 1: “Jim, it looks to me like he is attempting the ill-fated parallel line crossover ... I mean, I haven’t seen anyone brave enough or dumb enough to try this since Vince Ritter-McCartney got laughed out of the competition when it all went horribly wrong for him in 1967. I mean, is that what we’re really seeing here? And do my eyes deceive me or is that a Honda HRU-19 he’s chosen for today’s contest?"


Commentator 2: “Yeah, Ron, I can’t lie; that is what we’re seeing, and it is – as you say – unorthodox to say the least. One thing I will say is that his choice of mower shouldn’t even matter today because he brings enough class to the sport just by how good a lawn mower he is. And credit where it’s due, he wouldn’t be trying this at all at this level of competition if he didn’t have a rabbit up his sleeve.”


Commentator 1: “You mean in his hat?”


Commentator 2: “No, he’s not got the ... oh yeah, rabbit in his hat, it’s an ace up his sleeve; I got that kinda wrong.”


Commentator 1: “Well hopefully he’s got both, coz he’s gonna need both; if this doesn’t work, he won’t be able to call himself a lawn mowing champion any longer.”


Both commentators laugh awkwardly. 


3. What’s a favourite Christian song, and why do you like it? 

I am an Amy Grant tragic. She has a song called, ‘Arms of Love’. I love this song. It’s so beautifully honest, vulnerable and open to God’s permeation of our lives. I would love to be this articulate in my relationship with God and with others. Until I am, I have Amy to sing on my behalf.


4. If you could have a good talk with a biblical character apart from Jesus, who would it be and what would you talk about? 

Elijah. I would talk to him – whether he wanted to or not – about what it felt like to go in the strength of the Lord. Elijah experienced the fullness of human fragility and the fullness of being on fire for God. The food that was provided to him at his lowest point gave him strength to do God’s work for 40 days, even though he wasn’t feeling it at all! What did the strength of the Lord feel like, Elijah? Were you dragged kicking and screaming from task to task feeling out of control, or was it easy, and did it just feel like you were smashing it out of the park?


5. If you were talking to a group of Salvationists and they asked if you recommended officership or not, what would you say? 

The safest thing for everyone in the event that this occurred would be to instantly produce a Candidates Secretary to field all future questions whilst I lean impressively against a wall or bench with a coffee in hand and a moody and enigmatic look on my face.


But if pressed, I would absolutely recommend officership if you, firstly, want to serve God by building his Kingdom here on earth and you feel called to full-time ministry. I think that’s got to be the first and most crucial measure of whether officership is a good idea. Desire might come and go, but calling rarely goes anywhere. So, if that’s there, then good; I recommend officership. 


I also believe The Salvation Army is thinking differently these days about officership and our role. I know a lot of work, heartache and pain has been experienced by a lot of people in The Salvation Army – both officers and non-officers – as this transition and massive organisational change has occurred, but I want to say thank you to those who braved the trenches to get The Salvation Army to where it is today. I want to thank them all, and I want to let them know that it has been worth it, and The Salvation Army is better for it. It’s an exciting time to be an officer.


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