From the moment graduates and staff boogied down the aisle to a funk version of ‘Celebrate Good Times’, the scene was set for a festive and joyful weekend. And there was much to celebrate as seven cadets from the Messengers of the Gospel session and one Joyful Intercessor were commissioned.
Head, Heart and Hands
Cadet Lynda Pitcher began her graduation speech with a quote from Dr Seuss: ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’
‘Tonight we celebrate our heads,’ explained Lynda, at the graduation ceremony on Friday 8 December 2017. ‘But tonight is about more than the knowledge I’ve gained. If I want to go further in making an impact on my small corner of the world, I need to use my head, heart and hands.’
These words were echoed by Captain Ian Gainsford, outgoing principal of Booth College of Mission (BCM): ‘We have a wild and infinite God that we too easily claim to understand,’ he exclaimed. ‘Cadets, don’t you dare settle for what you know now!
‘To say we should love requires us to actually love. To say we need to empower, means we need to let go of power … Jesus didn’t say, “Tell people what to do,” he said, “Whoever wants to be great must learn to serve.” ’
This partnership of head, heart and hands became a theme throughout the night.
The service began with a moving pōwhiri, which included BCM staff and 21 graduates. Music was provided by Waitakere Central Corps, leading in powerful worship throughout the weekend.
‘BCM exists to prepare people for the realities of mission in The Salvation Army, inspiring them to engage with a triune God in a mission that will transform our nation,’ said Commissioner Andy Westrupp, as he presented the annual report. ‘This requires deep learning, significant skill and deep passion.’
The past year deserved special recognition, because BCM gained accreditation as a Category One tertiary provider—putting it at the highest level available in New Zealand. ‘This was a major achievement worth celebrating,’ said Andy.
As well as the so-called ‘bread and butter’ of training cadets, over 250 people attended short courses through BCM’s Centre for Leadership Development. The Archives and Heritage Centre answered 250 enquires, mainly from people following up family histories and genealogies—a unique service provided by the Army.
The cadets received a range of qualifications, including the Diploma of Christian Studies, Diploma in Salvation Army Mission and Ministry, and Certificate of Salvation Army Officer Training. Lieutenant Aram Kwon also received the DipSAMM award, completing it after the birth of her daughter, Joy, mid-way through her final year of training in 2016. Their hard work was received by cheers and applause as each went up on stage to receive their awards.
Major Bronwyn Aldersley and Captain Dale McFarlane both received a Bachelor of Theology from Laidlaw College—a major partner with BCM.
Finally, 10 people graduated with the inaugural Te Whare Io certificate—a year-long Māori discipleship programme. There were plenty of waiata and karanga whakanui to honour the graduates, which gave an immense sense of mana to the whole evening. This was followed by a spontaneous and spine-tingling rendition of The Salvation Army’s ‘I’ll Fight’ haka.
‘William Booth realised that he wasn’t meeting the mark by preaching in church. He realised the mark was out there on the streets, so he met with prostitutes, gamblers and the down-and-outers. I love the revolutionary tone within your whakapapa,’ said Frane Rosandich, Te Whare Io facilitator.
Quoting Samuel Logan Brengle, he added, ‘our graduates have had a “bursting of flames” within them, within their cultural lens, and they know they were created in the image of God.’
No Invoice Please, Mum!
The word LIFE was spelt out in giant letters at the front of Wellington City Corps. Cadet Mike Bryan pointed out that LIFE stands for ‘love is for everyone’.
Love was a central theme of the day, on Saturday 9 December 2017, as cadets and their families gathered together for the Silver Star Brunch. Colonel Yvonne Westrupp explained that the Fellowship of the Silver Star was originally set up to honour the mothers of cadets—and it was only in 2001 that fathers and spiritual parents were given ‘equal opportunities’ and included in the Fellowship.
Speaking on behalf of the other graduates, Cadet Grant Pitcher welled up with tears as he reflected on his own parents, and joked that ‘I was told if I cried I would get out of this real quick’.
‘Our parents made us the people we are today. They protected and nurtured us when we were hurt, they were there for our first words, for the scars on our legs,’ said Grant, adding, ‘Remember riding my bike into the swimming pool, Mum? Don’t ever give me an invoice for the money you’ve spent on me over the years!’
Cadet Leo Siwi, from the Indonesia Territory, was chosen to study at BCM for the year. His parents, fiancée and Chief Secretary made a special trip to New Zealand to celebrate his commissioning.
‘Our hearts are beating, we’re happy and are very grateful and we say our thanks to the Lord,’ said Leo’s parents, who are also Salvation Army officers.
Leo added that he was ‘happy but nervous. I’m happy because my family is here and that really honours me, but I’m nervous because I don’t yet know my appointment’. In accordance with the Indonesian Territory’s practice, Leo had to wait until his commissioning to find out just where he was being sent.
Another parent that came from afar was Cadet Sung Woo (Beany) Cho’s mother from South Korea. She said that she ‘felt very good and happy because [my son] is spiritually healthy.’
The Good News is Everyone’s Job
‘Have you had any good news lately?’ was the question asked of people on the streets of Wellington in an opening video at the afternoon Commissioning and Ordination service. Answers included everything from a clear mammogram result, to a new job, to a healthy family. It was all good news!
Then the cadets quoted from Isaiah 61:1, saying, ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news.’ But their message was that they can’t do it alone—we are all messengers of good news.
‘God loves us all—that’s the radical message, and to me that’s what the gospel is, that love is for everyone,’ reflected Mike. ‘The people we don’t like, the people society doesn’t like. So help us to spread that gospel!’
This was reflected in Andy’s address, in which he recalled the early days of The Salvation Army, where corps were typically run by local Salvationists rather than commissioned officers. He compared the disciples of Jesus—both in the Bible and today—to David’s ‘mighty men’, saying, ‘Each of us who calls ourselves by the name of Christ is a mighty man or woman of God. He wants every one of us to be mighty warriors, and every one of us to be part of a focused unit of radicals.’
As selected guests gave messages of encouragement to the cadets, a stand out was 14-year-old Sophie Gainsford: ‘Manaakitanga means to care and be generous to others your whole life. My prayer is that this is something that will stay in your memory. Best of luck, never give up,’ she said.
Colonel Margaret Hay told the story of Commissioner George Scott Railton, who in 1881 was commanded—against his will—to return from the US to England. On his travels, he missed his boat. Dejected, he sat down and wrote these words: ‘The life of the soul saver is the grandest, merriest, strangest life that can be lived on earth—the life of Jesus lived over again in us. It will cost you all, but it will be a good bargain at that!’
During the formal part of the ceremony, each cadet went forward to be commissioned and then receive their first appointment. After their salutes, the new lieutenants were greeted with whoops and cheers. Beany broke the formalities by doing a ‘westside’ sign with his hands as he was appointed to Waitakere Central Corps.
Lieutenant Andrew O’Brien—who, along with his wife Maree, has been a cadet-in-appointment at Manukau Central Corps—responded by forming an ‘M-side’ sign with his hands. After the service, Maree reflected that the weekend had felt extra-special for them, as their Covenant Day was also their 32nd wedding anniversary.
But the moment met with bated breath was when Leo’s appointment was announced. He was told he was appointed to Maranatha Boys Home in the Bali and Java Division, to cheers all round—and a large, relieved smile from Leo.
‘They are a credit to the Army,’ said Ian, as he commended the brand-new lieutenants to Andy and Yvonne as territorial leaders. ‘These people come with fears, hopes and dreams. They’ve been pushed and proved willing to push back. They have been real,’ he said. ‘Commissioner, these eight are not perfect, but they are capable. They will make glorious mistakes. They will struggle and succeed. They will bring life.’
The final ‘act’ was a life-giving and glorious climax, as graduates from Te Whare Io gave a kapa haka performance, with songs of worship to Atua and service to Te Ope Whakāora. Indeed, it brought LIFE—love for everyone that was there that day.
A New Beginning
The Sunday morning celebration service featured the world premiere of new Lieutenant Grant Pitcher’s own brass band composition, ‘A New Beginning’.
‘Before I came to college I wrote this piece of music—but at College I realised it was a new beginning every day,’ explained Grant. ‘This piece was written for my session mates. I’ve been told it’s a bit out there, which I guess it goes nicely with me,’ he laughed. It was a stirring piece of music, based on Grant’s two favourite worship songs ‘Our God is an Awesome God’, and ‘Show Your Power’.
The morning celebrated new beginnings, as well as life-long journeys. Seven officers came forward to celebrate between 25-40 years of service. But the standing ovation belonged to Major David Bennett, retiring after 52 years of continuous service—which Major Gerry Walker said ‘may well be a record’. Collectively, the officers had done a staggering 357 years of active service.
Then, these faithful officers handed over the baton, as they presented the second year cadets with their trimmings and prayed over them.
Cadet Heather Pyper, a cadet-in-appointment at Upper Hutt Corps this year, shared her own new beginnings: ‘God is pushing me outside my comfort zone once again. Do I feel prepared? Not really. But I believe God will go before us, as he’s always done,’ she said.
The service was also the official welcome and for Colonels Melvin and Suzanne Fincham, and Colonel Heather Rodwell.
‘It’s a privilege to be here in this part of God’s vineyard,’ responded Melvin. ‘Many years ago I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. I knew at that young age that he wanted me to serve him. But the problem is that Melvin Fincham is stubborn. I said “no” but time and time again God gave me confirmation.
‘This “yes” has led to many privileges—to kneel and pray with someone, to open scriptures and share the Word of God, what a privilege is mine. My prayer is that I would show the living presence of Jesus Christ to others. Time and time again I’ve seen Jesus turn the impossible into the possible. For whoever, wherever, forever.’
Suzanne gave the morning’s message, reflecting that ‘some of us have fancy epilates’ but that doesn’t mean there are not challenges. ‘When it is hard, God says, “Is it well with your soul, Suzanne?” and I say, “Come on God, let’s walk together”.
She talked about the ‘divine marginalisation’ of God, who chose to become an ‘ordinary’ human being, who walks with us. ‘Jesus came into the margins, becoming a servant—which means to become invisible. Jesus came into the margins of society to show us our worth. The Word walks around in us unseen, the Word walks through the marketplace. Do we recognise the Word in our day, in our life?’
It was Suzanne who summed up the feeling of the weekend, when she said, ‘It is a miracle, and miracles have happened here this weekend.’
Messengers of the Gospel
Chonny and Mike Bryan: corps officers, Papakura Corps.
Sung Woo (Beany) Cho: assistant officer, Waitakere Corps.
Andrew and Maree O’Brien: corps officers, Manuakau Central Corps.
Grant and Lynda Pitcher: assistant officers, Nelson Tasman Bays Corps.
Leo Siwi: assistant officer, Marantha Boys Home, Bali and Java Division, Indonesian Territory.
Congratulations to all our new lieutenants!