Archives for posts with tag: Salvation Army

This morning I am in Kansas, really not all that far from the state line with Missouri, my current home state.

Today and the next few days are ‘furlough’ which to a Salvation Army Officer means time to not-work.  I will do that for the most part.  Part of furlough in Elk County is a leisurely morning run down a dirt county road.  More than routine it is my ritual.

Yesterday morning eight whitetail crossed the road ahead as I ran north, turning with the road as it jogs right, and then left as it resumes its northerly course.  A rural water district water tower ahead beckoned me once more onward, upward the rising road.

Kansas Elk County Road 21 4 24 2018

the view midpoint in a 10k route return

Furlough days allow for these things typically put to the side.  Long runs, and reading this excerpt from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s new book Reconstructing The Gospel just out from Intervarsity Press.



I paused in my reading.  I will get a copy of the book.

I paused at the word ‘reconstructing’.

Salvation Army work currently involves me in the roll out of a racial equity lens for our Army use throughout the St Louis region.

I live in St Louis, my office based here too.  Responsibilities frequently take me on the road throughout Missouri and southern Illinois.  Away from life which I enjoy in our Benton Park West neighborhood, a ten minute walk to Cherokee Street, the gritty diversity, the earnest and often clueless young white folks moving into BPW.  And the personal challenge to me, a professional minister with years of experience in urban inner cities now able to live in a place I understand.  Often.  There are times I am not so unlike those earnest ones.

Reconstructing the gospel is about reconstructing the systems that are in place which handle, shape and unavoidably misuse the euangelion.  A racial equity lens helps us to examine these systems.  Organizations and institutions are systems.   The Salvation Army is a movement.  As is the way of all things, it requires shape and form.  Organization.  Ways, traditions, culture.  Decision making patterns and instituted policies.  Thus, like all organizations, we need a lens in our 21st century American post-Michael Brown St Louis setting.  We needed it pre-Michael Brown.  But now we do have a way of examining our movement here in terms of racial equity.

On the road between Kansas City and this quiet Kansas county we listened to an interview with Rhiannon Giddens, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant last fall.  She is now working on a “theatrical treatment” of the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898.  This musical work will help us see what American history calls Reconstruction, the decades following our Civil War.  Listen to the interview.  Giddens helps us realize it should not have been a surprise what the powers of white supremacy did to Reconstruction.

The Reconstruction of the late 19th century South in America is controversial.  Until lately it has been viewed through a set of white supremacist eyes.  As a schoolboy I remember reading it to be so in our history textbooks.  It is only later in life that I’m learning otherwise.  Giddens’ new work will be part of helping tell a full story.

Things not rightly put together do not work as meant to be.  Things rightly put together can go wrong.  The attention of God in our world is in the rightly putting together of things, and in the making right of things gone wrong.  Regeneration.  Reconciliation.  Redemption.

Running.  Reading.  Ruminating.  My morning run takes me past cattle chewing the cud.  They spot me, stand, stare.  One begins to run and then all.  Every morning, through the years.

We are beginning to notice.  Using our eyes in new ways.  This is our time to start moving, some would say running to make right the things wrong.  To make new things rightly.  Reconstructing.

As we reconstruct systems, help us, Lord, to be surprised.

TSARSTL Racial Equity Lens #4 png


They’ll make you answer a question.  Go ahead.  So you can read more about Father Dunne and his Newsboy Home.

The building at 3010 W. Washington in St Louis is no longer the Newsboy Home.  This past week Gail and I snuck around workmen, fresh paint to see the former Newsboy Home/former Harbor Light now becoming what we are calling (unofficially) 3010.

photo 3 (2)

photo 2 (2)

Part of the remodeling includes keeping as much as possible the building’s past.  The chapel retains original floor tile and many other features.

Such as the stained glass windows.  When we walked into the chapel a workman offered to show us the newly arrived renovated windows.  He unwrapped one and set it out for us to admire.

photo 2

The windows will soon be re-installed.  Lovely.

The Post-Dispatch says that The Salvation Army is remodeling the building into apartments.  More to the story.

The apartments will provide affordable housing for men and women, many who will be or have been in the Army’s treatment programs.  The apartments will provide a place, home.

And 3010’s existence in the city means that there will be a place in the city for those who in many American cities are being pushed out by economic realities.  It’s just too expensive.  Because it’s become just too lucrative to not develop properties for upper-middle and higher income folks.  Chicago’s Lincoln Park, etc.  Will it happen in St Louis?  It will if there is no will to make a place for those who are easily squeezed out.  Out to the edges, to the margins.

Salvation Army has been creating places in St Louis for affordable housing.  Railton Residence.  Veterans Residence.  Now, 3010.  And plans for further developments.

Why?  Because cities do not become full, complete places by homogenizing their economic landscape.  A city’s economy cannot offer a rich urban experience with only the rich.  The rich only become poorer.

When the Army’s co-founder William Booth envisioned salvation for the world he saw more than a religious compartment of human life.  Life also means having a place, a decent place, in this world.  This world so loved by God.

If you are a Salvation Army person deep into toys, food baskets, and kettles you may gasp at Pride for Parents.  Is this a valid alternative to the way we do Christmas in America?  Could it work for the Army?

Xmas tree

Also from Bob Lupton’s Urban Perspectives, worth reading Blessed are the Poor for theirs is the Kingdom (a tribute to Eddie)

before I go rushing in to rescue a poor person, to save him from an impending crisis resulting from unwise decisions, perhaps I should ask “Who needs rescuing here?” Does my comfortable, stable, orderly lifestyle afford me a safe and elevated platform from which to judge (or misjudge) lesser ones? Could the financial security which I have worked so diligently to accumulate actually prevent me from experiencing a life of true faith? Does my “good common sense” (or middle class achiever values) make me blind to the Kingdom, the Kingdom Christ said would be harder for a rich man to enter than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle?

fire MondayIt’s a beautiful image though not one that we like to see.

Monday afternoon one of our Salvation Army canteens with its crew rolled up to serve those serving at a four-alarm fire in a riverfront warehouse along the Mississippi in St Louis.  Gary Busiek, our Divisional Social Services Director, noted that the canteen crew provided “hot drinks, hot meals, and snacks to fire department first responders, city workers, and utility company workers”.

Cities have a flashy outer skin.  But they also have an unseen inner life.  Things like fire engines and their crews, and Salvation Army canteens and their crews.  It takes much to contribute to the well-being and security of cities.


Tomorrow is the annual I’ll Fight Day, calling Salvation Army (especially young) people to a one day … well, here is an explanation …


When we say ‘evangelism’ don’t think street corner preacher with a bullhorn, or door to door smiling tract distributors.

I’ll Fight Day evangelism is thinking of others first, their needs, and what I can do to give a cup of cold water.  Or more likely for December, cup of hot coffee.  With a sandwich.  To men and women living under I-94 in Chicago, by the river somewhere in Iowa, warming themselves by a fire in Detroit.  Or in countless other, imaginative, daring ways which we believe our Lord will gesture to on a judgment day, and nod with approval.  You did it to others?  You did it to Me.

Evangelism is simply the speaking and showing of the good news of Jesus the Christ.  And just perhaps, people will notice and also follow.  As the Spirit leads.

I like “surprise .. with God’s love”.  The kingdom of God is truly so as it surprises us, showing up in unexpected ways and places via its people.  Confounding the wisdom of this world.  Which strangely is the object of God’s love (John 3:16).

But the only thing unsettling about it is that it offers to and draws others into a turning trajectory, to turn to the ‘man for others’ (Bonhoeffer) as he led and continues to lead us in being of use to this God-loved world today.

Tomorrow.  I’ll Fight Day.

I would add, in the terse words of our Army’s Founder to all us Salvation Army (especially young) people, do something.


An Australian term, Salvos.  Meaning Salvation Army people.

The WordPress powers have interceded and my blog is now restored.  Thank you.

Here’s some of the facts and a little bit of the human story on the federal government’s reduction in SNAP (food stamps) this month reported today by Kim Severson and Winnie Hu of the New York Times.

d36caf50-bcdf-4b55-b8ad-97276cbbd7ceToday I was in Marion IL visiting our Salvation Army center that serves the southern part of Illinois.  Cindy Cowgur runs our operations there and she tells me that somewhere between 400-500 families will receive Christmas assistance just in Williamson County.  And that about 70 families each month now receive a bag of groceries there.  I don’t know the numbers, but families in 21 additional southern Illinois counties will also receive Salvation Army Christmas food.

I didn’t have time to talk with Cindy about the effect this SNAP reduction will have.  But I’m sure it will soon be felt.

Take two minutes to watch the video in the Severson and Hu article.  Compare the current Congress’ desire to reduce SNAP with a rise in the US poverty rate.  What to expect?  Cindy and her staff are going to have more monthly visitors.  Soon.

I belong to this group which meets Sunday evenings on Arsenal Street.

through October 10  2013 677We are Salvation Army people from the metro St Louis area meeting to study Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys by Jawanza Kunjufu.  Major Gail (photo center) leads us.

The last couple weeks we’ve examined the ‘fourth grade failure syndrome’.  Kunjufu identifies factors that “contribute to the decline in African American boys’ achievement” in school –

  • decline in parental involvement
  • increase in peer pressure
  • decline in nurturance
  • decline in teacher expectations
  • lack of understanding of learning styles
  • lack of male teachers

Is this true?  What can we do in our centers, programs, neighborhoods to provide what is needed to counter this complex of factors?

Tawana Craig’s blog has a good page on Kunjufu.Jawanza Kunjufu

In the St Louis area?  Interested?  You are invited to join us 4:00 – 5:15 PM at the Salvation Army, 2740 Arsenal Street, St Louis MO.

countering the conspiracy

Last month I was able to be in New Orleans for the Christian Community Development Association National Conference.  Gail and a few other Salvation Army people from our St Louis area enjoyed visiting the Big Easy.  Eating po-boys, luxuriating in the Big Easy’s languid warmth.

Captain Ronnie musing and Lieutenant AJ scrutinizes as Lieutenant Bryan makes a point.

Captain Ronnie muses and Lieutenant AJ scrutinizes as Lieutenant Bryan makes a point.

Most of all we were challenged by what we heard and learned.  About the way God’s people from a wide range of persuasions (Jesuit priest and Southern Baptist) are being used to bring about wholeness in some of the most challenging urban places in America.

I am of a theological bent.  So one of my personal highlights was the conference opening night address from Noel Castellanos, CEO of CCDA.  Noel got theological.  His recent blog post ‘Cultivating Unlikely Leaders’ incorporates some of the theological observations from that address.

Noel refers to ‘a new reality’.  It is a reality of merging the margins and mainstream of society.  That the most unlikely of people would come together in healing and helping ways.  Led by women and men from the most unlikely of places, working together in the most unlikely configurations.

Unlikely.  I like that.

Those of us from Salvation Army have our roots in the unlikely.  19th century Britain did not expect people of its urban slums to become agents of the gospel in their communities, and eventually around the world.  But that’s what happened.

... closer and closer

the most unlikely of places and people

Question:  is it still happening?

Yes.  In all our Army places?  no.

We confess that often we are tempted to be too much so mainstream.  Dallas Cowboys and much of corporate America love us.  Our temptation is to love the ways and means of our land, to adopt an American overlay of consumerism (what exactly do we accomplish at Christmas?), to allow a respectable religion to direct our paths.

Forgive us our trepasses.  Lead us not into temptation.

At our very best, Salvation Army merges margin and mainstream.  In the morning we are in the Governor’s office.  Later that same day we are praying with a family in the projects.  We are this way to bring people closer and closer together, to God.  The big theological idea is reconciliation, of all things.  That was a key theological claim made by George Scott Railton in 1878, the year we became The Salvation Army.

to be seen in all the most unlikely places

to be seen in all the most unlikely places

May God lead us into the most unlikely places to surprise this world that He so loves.  Amen.

A year or two ago I sat at the lunch table following a retirement program for Salvation Army officer friends.  No question, previously retired officers were heavily represented there.

At our table was a recently retired officer couple who served at THQ quite a few years.  A good part of their experience was in serving and traveling overseas, usually in places of danger and challenge.

Our conversation turned to the U.S. military.  Family members in harm’s way.  But then, she mused, it’s a shame that Salvation Army is not much involved (at all?) with helping returning servicemen and servicewomen find work.  Job training.  Placements.

Not long after I opened a Central Connection to see “Donut Day hits 75 years”.Flood Victims Receive Help

Today it’s not donuts.  It’s jobs that are needed in America.

Over the last few years I’ve listened to Army leaders, officers and employees, moan about how we need a new “symbol of the selfless service provided by the Army to those who’ve fallen on hard times”.  We are concerned that as the generation vanishes which remembers us for the donut and coffee freely given, there will be no new generation deeply moved by our selfless service.  If it’s so, the brand loyalty will also vanish.

Meeting human need in His name without discrimination is mission as much as preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In fact, when we conduct mission, it should be difficult to distinguish two distinct parts.

The little boy with five loaves and two fishes.  What can so little accomplish?

No detailed outline, or standard operating procedure for corps to deal with returned military personnel, jobless in the community.  Instead, you will see and notice, be very bothered by it, and then in those haunting words of William Booth ‘do something’.  You will use imagination, initiative and chutzpah.  You won’t be a lone ranger but engage your soldiers, advisory board and the Army’s friends in your town, and quite likely make new friends in leading the Army to do its best to meet this human need.

Do something.  That’s mission.

It’s morning in St Louis and Salvation Army people will gather in a couple hours at the Peabody Opera House for ”resurrection’ worship.

Salvation Army people are people of hope. Of new creation, existing for others, with Christ at the center of our experience, faith, life. These are themes we have heard during the past 36 hours in the words of General Linda Bond, songs, presentations. In the reuniting of comrades we have not seen in a year.

Some of those comrades look older. But some are new young fresh faces.



New Soldiers enrolled, not to join ranks of church-sitting people. Rather, people who are called (God help us) to turn the world upside-down. Surprising the world in what God does through us, where he sends us. Only living to serve those whom God has so loved. Which is every human being.

Such as in Tokyo:

Chris, we’re glad you’re home for a couple weeks!

%d bloggers like this: