Tag Archive | Salvation Army

It’s Complicated…

torah1

I met with a lady yesterday, Alison, a newly ordained Deacon in the Church of England. One of the things that were on my list of things to do was to find myself a ‘Spiritual Director’ or mentor.  We had an amazing couple of things in common, one of which was home education – she had home educated her children (what are the chances?!).

She was very encouraging, and talked about how long and hard she had needed to fight in order to get to ordination.

“Don’t let them discourage you”, she said.

When she asked me about my vocation, and why the Church of England, I was able to say immediately how and why I felt I had been called, and why I am in the CofE. She said that I articulated that very well, which rather tickled me, as I did rather make it up on the spot.

But when she asked me why the Priesthood, as opposed to any other kind of Christian ministry, I was a little bit stumped. I tend to believe quite strongly in the Priesthood of all believers, which we discussed, and we agreed that this is a good argument in favour of women leaders / ministers / Priests.

But I realised that I do need to have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Priest.

And I also realised that I am fudging things a bit. I am still Messianic, I am still evangelical. In fact, in many ways, I am still conservative, and as much as I embrace the traditionally liberal qualities of love, tolerance and social justice, I don’t think that will change. I don’t think those ‘liberal’ qualities are at all inconsistent with a conservative view of scripture.

But can I be consistent as a conservative, Messianic Jewish, evangelical, (Salvationist?!) not-really-feminist, woman Priest in the Church of England?

I don’t know. I hear the call, but I don’t know where it’s leading me. No decisions need to be made at this point; I am on a journey, so I will just keep taking small steps forward, and trust that I am following the right path.

I didn’t discuss all of these things with Alison. I think that, although I am keen to meet with her again, I really need to find somebody else to be a real ‘mentor’, even if she is willing to fulfill the official role of ‘Spiritual Director’. But I really need somebody who is familiar with, or has grappled with the same issues as I have to deal with.

So if you know any other conservative, Messianic Jewish, evangelical, not-really-feminist, women Priests in the Church of England, do please send them my way! (The Salvationist element is optional) 🙂

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Plan to Help Ailing Rural Corps

I managed to get to the Salvation Army today, the first time in a couple of months.

I came away disheartened and discouraged. I really think that, in rural places like this, and perhaps particularly in Cornwall, the Salvation Army will die unless it makes some changes and soon.

In this particular corps, there are no young people, no families, no children. Only 3 uniformed members, including the corps officer. 13 attendees in total including myself and the corps officer. The only midweek meetings / outreach a monthly Bible study.

Off the top of my head, there are a bunch of things that could be done to build up ailing corps.

1. Committed, experienced uniformed salvationists should be encouraged to retire to Devon and Cornwall and their families should be encouraged to visit.

2. Young salvationist families should be encouraged to come during the summer holidays to Devon and Cornwall on mission to bring young families into the corps. Look for example at United Beach Missions http://www.ubm.org.uk/

3. Young salvationists should be invited to spend a gap mission year, unpaid (or perhaps supported by their sending corps) but with free board and lodging, to work with the corps. The only limit to the number and length (number of years) of these mission places is the number of people willing to feed and house them.

4. Regular marching, with the Salvation Army banner, around the town on the way to the meeting on a Sunday, handing out leaflets inviting people to join the meeting.

5. Don’t limit yourselves to what you can achieve now. Do some research to find out what local needs are, pray about them and take a step of faith to start meeting those needs. Make prayer a priority.

6. Don’t assume that it’s enough to be a friendly and welcoming bunch. You need to be investing in real relationships. Superficial friendships aren’t much use to anybody.

7. Don’t abandon the hymns, don’t replace them with choruses and modern songs, but do make sure that you choose hymns that are well-known, catchy and joyful, especially for the final hymn.

8. Other corps within striking distance should be willing to ‘loan out’ bandsmen and songsters to stand in and teach until resident corps members are able to form a band themselves.

There’s more I could say but this will do for now.

I’m torn between enthusiasm and frustration. I stopped going regularly because my request to become a soldier was ignored and not pursued despite many months of faithful attendance.

But I love the Army and I hope they will do something about their dwindling numbers before it’s too late.

Vocation

I have always, for as long as I can remember, had a sense of ‘calling’. I thought for years that I was destined to be a missionary, and I was convinced I would be a minister’s wife but I ended up divorced and re-married to a non-Christian so that was the end of that.

But that sense of ‘calling’, that little voice calling me into ministry has become more insistent as I have got older. While I was in the Messianic fellowship, I heard the call more loudly than ever, but there was simply no clear path to pursue.

In most of the denominations I have had dealings with, women preachers have been an absolute no-no, but more recently of course again, I have been involved with Pentecostal churches, The Salvation Army and the Church of England, all of whom welcome female candidates.

I’m sure I have mentioned before that I considered Salvation Army officership as far back as my teens, but then when I got married, my then Officer’s Kid husband was dead against it; he had been totally put off churches, Christianity in general and The Salvation Army in particular due to his experience as an ‘OK’.

More recently, although I have felt the call, The Salvation Army has presented just too many obstacles – you have to be willing to move to London for training, and then be willing to be sent anywhere in the UK (or even, potentially the World as I speak other languages and have connections in various places).

I’m not free to do either of those things. And I’m also so far away from a Corps that the whole thing has just been impractical from the get-go. As much as I love the Army, I can’t see a way round the obstacles.

For the last 6 months, I have been attending my local Anglican, and over the last few weeks I have been exploring the possibility of Ordination.

Yesterday, I met with the Vocations Officer for an initial interview, and went through my journey of faith with him.

I’ve actually been having a little bit of a love affair with the Anglican church – despite all its faults and foibles, I have been surprised by how much I love the liturgy, the set prayers, the music, and even, despite myself, the gravitas of the Eucharist.

We talked about all the options for ministry and service within the Church of England, and were I to get that far, training for Ordination would be much more local and not full time, all of which makes it more manageable for my limitations.

The vocations officer told me that my age was no barrier, but he did make it clear that the chances of actually becoming a paid Priest (as opposed to a self-supporting one) are extremely slim, and could take a lot more years to achieve.

I didn’t realise until he told me this that it would be an issue for me, but I realise now that it is. There’s just no way I could afford to do it as a hobby, and I find that my ‘tentmaking’ skills are limited, at least in terms of being able to bring in the money.

Of course nobody goes into the ministry for financial reasons, but we do have to eat, and I have a lot of mouths to feed.

One thing that was encouraging though was that the vocations officer did confirm to me that he recognised that I do have a calling.

So it’s now in my hands, whether I want to pursue it or not.

So I’m back to square one, I hear the call, but I can’t determine from which direction it’s calling me.

Church Questions

I wanted to share this post because Les asks some very worthy questions and I think his answers are good.

http://lesfergusonjr.com/2014/02/06/church-questions/

I also think that questioning in general – and even being angry with God while desperately wanting to believe and to love Him – is good and healthy.

The stifling of questioning, and the lack of compassion and understanding around the issues of grief and depression are among the things that made me leave the church a decade ago; and conversely, the welcoming of questioning, and the understanding of pain and suffering (as integral to human experience in a broken world) were among the things that attracted me to Judaism.

And now, having a connection again with the church in the form of The Salvation Army, I think that its core Mission of restoring the world to God by restoring and rescuing individuals (especially those who are so low the other churches don’t want them!) answers some of those questions for me.

Messianic Distinctives

I have been thinking recently about what it means to be Messianic. For three years now I have had no Messianic fellowship at all – there is simply nothing available in this part of the world – and so, after being completely isolated for so long (and even without internet fellowship) I have started again to look for Christian fellowship, and have had to determine where I can be in agreement, and where I must draw the line.

So what does Messianic mean?

Messianic Judaism, or the Messianic faith is far from homogenous – there is a broad spectrum ranging from something which to all intents and purposes resembles mainstream Christianity, right through to something which resembles something more like Orthodox Judaism.I wrote this basic list in around 2007 in an attempt to formulate some `distinctives’ (differences from mainstream Christianity) to which all Messianics would be able to agree.
[1] We fully identify ourselves with the Jewish people: For those of us who are of a Jewish background and heritage, we remain Jews. For those of us who are of a gentile background and heritage, we see ourselves as ‘grafted in’ to the Covenant People, Israel. We do not remain `gentiles’ in the sense of ‘pagan’ (although the Hebrew word ‘goyim’ also carries the meaning ‘Nations’). We do not stop being English / French / African / Australian or whatever, and we do not become `Jews’.
To be fair though, even this is not without contention. Most Jewish congregations do not accept non-Jews as part of Israel, denoting this whole idea as ‘replacement theology’ and saying that non-Jews can be part of the ‘commonwealth’ but never properly part of Israel. I don’t personally think that is a fair criticism.  We are supposed to be ‘One New Man’, the Body of Christ. Read Romans 11 and Ephesians 2. What if a Jewish Messianic marries a non-Jewish Messianic? Are their children Jewish? No, I am convinced that these distinctions should not be perpetuated indefinitely. There is to be neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. But as with other race problems in the Church at large, we’re not there yet.
[2] We seek to recover the lost heritage of the essential `Jewishness’ of the ‘faith’ – that is the ‘Christian’ faith, the original Messianic faith in Yeshua (Jesus), and perhaps emphasising the Jewishness of the early church by including the use of Hebrew names, and a movement away from pagan-derived non-Hebrew religious names and vocabulary. (This is much more prevalent in the Sacred Names movement, which is connected to but perhaps a somewhat separate branch to Messianic Judaism.)
[3] We celebrate the Scriptural and Jewish Feasts, including Sabbath, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach/ Passover, FirstFruits/ Omer/ Shavuot (`Pentecost’ in Greek) as well as Hanukkah and Purim in preference to `Christian-ised’ pagan-derived feasts such as Christmas and Easter. (The more Christian branch of Messianic spectrum, that formerly called itself Hebrew or Jewish Christians, tends to retain all the Christian festivals, and tends not to view any possible pagan connections as a problem.)
Additionally, some adopt a kosher diet – abstaining from pork and shellfish – understanding that Paul’s vision was a metaphor for welcoming non-Jewish people into the faith and not, as Christians understand it, abandoning the food laws themselves.
[4] We have a reverence for Torah in its entirety, not just the `ten commandments’, as “inspired, profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and for instruction in righteousness”. (Not to earn salvation, as the Messianic movement is often accused of)
There is an unfortunate tendency to get stuck in the minutiae of the Feasts without going on to searching out the ‘Weightier Matters of the Law’. I have been down that path myself, and I have seen good people disappear into an abyss of rules and regulations, losing their love and compassion along the way. It’s not a pretty picture.
The weightier matters of the Law are pretty clear from scripture – they include Justice (justice for the poor, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged, the widow, the orphan, the imprisoned, the victim), Mercy and Love.
For those reasons, the church with which I have involved myself recently – although it  may not seem an obvious choice, given their love of Christmas – is The Salvation Army. Obviously we differ on the significance of the sabbath and the festivals; and I am pretty sure it is a denomination that tends towards replacement theology. I am pretty sure we differ theologically. I’m also pretty sure that it wouldn’t be the most comfortable place for a Messianic believer.
But ultimately, I feel that as a single, isolated believer, I am doing no good, but as part of an extended body, despite theological differences, we can achieve some good. And when you look at Christianity as a whole, what denomination is doing more towards Tikkun Olam? (Healing the World)
The Messianic view of the Law, Torah, is quite different from mainstream Christianity – it is not a burdensome, undesirable curse of a thing that you would want to get rid of. Instead, it is viewed as a gift. A beautiful, restful, peaceful haven of safety. Torah is viewed as freedom, not something we need to be freed from.
The Salvation Army, perhaps alone in having the ‘liberal’ values of wanting to help the poor and disadvantaged, tends to be fairly conservative theologically in terms of valuing ‘holiness’. Although they divide the Law into the classic ‘Moral, Civil and Ceremonial’ categories, rejecting the ‘Civil’ and ‘Ceremonial’, they do at least continue to believe that the Law is a good thing.
I was thinking today that, if I were asked to ‘work’ on Shabbat (in terms of Salvation Army work), for instance, I would struggle, I would certainly wrestle with whether or not I could or should ‘work’. But it occurred to me to wonder what constitutes Biblical ‘work’ – I generally wouldn’t cook or shop on the sabbath, but what about healing the sick? feeding the hungry? rescuing the endangered? At this point, I haven’t been asked to do anything that would make me struggle or question.
But I think that it would be possible to retain integrity as a Messianic believer at the same time as giving up the gift of the sabbath to do good. After all, isn’t that what Yeshua himself did?

Salvationist Reading List

I stumbled on this article listing books that every Salvationist should read. Actually some of them perhaps every Christian should read. I thought I would share the list as I will be adding at least some of these titles to my long-term ‘to read’ list.

http://www.newfrontierchronicle.org/top50books/

Read52 Week4: Army on Its Knees

Another quick read this week, as I’m so busy at the moment:

Image

“Army on Its Knees” by Janet Munn and Stephen Court.

This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read on prayer, by any means, but I do like the metaphor (unlike Napolean’s Army which marched on its stomach, The Salvation Army ‘marches’ on its knees in prayer).

The book’s essential purpose seems to be to motivate Salvationists, by means of explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of prayer, without providing anything very much in the way of practical structures or guidelines, which is a little bit disappointing, but the chapter on fasting was very good.

I’d like to switch to fiction for next week, but I’ll also be starting the Bible in 90 Days on top of all my studies, so it may need to be another slim volume until I’ve got into the swing of all the extra reading 🙂