11 July 2017
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Extended celebrations and encouragement marked the 152nd anniversary of Founders’ Day, on 2 July, 2017, at Melbourne Project 614 at 69 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
Melbourne Project 614 CO Major Brendan Nottle says approximately 200 people gathered throughout the day, which included a Australia Southern book launch* and a concert from the Salvo Big Band** and museum tours.
A highlight of the day was a lively interactive discussion featuring national leaders Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd, facilitated by journalist and Salvationist John Cleary, which was attended by some 80 people, comprising officers, soldiers, employees, donors, volunteers and clients of The Salvation Army. The majority of those present were middle aged/older people.
The occasion, Brendan adds, was one of ‘tempered celebration; of reflection, warmth, inspiration, the sharing of news and information, and a desire to form and nurture partnerships’.
Discussing the foundations for the Army’s future, Brendan suggests that engagement with the community was one such foundation that made sense in the 614 context ‘and can be replicated in other locations; the pressing issue is the will to do so and the resources to support that engagement…
‘For all the serious issues, it wasn’t a heavy, depressing day – it was warm and people felt it was a good day to come together as Salvos.’
National commander Commissioner Floyd Tidd says there were many moments of grace and inspiration. He shares it was profoundly moving for him ‘to hear soldiers, volunteers, employees, and clients all singing Nathan Rowe’s song “I’ll Fight” – that was a powerful, missional commitment on Founders’ Day.’
Noting that the older demographic was expected, considering the nature of the promoted events, the national commander feels the mood included ‘a good sense of celebrating the past and anticipating what lies ahead of us… releasing the Salvo passion in every individual. That was crucial, because the future for The Salvation Army as a missional organisation lies squarely in the hands of the individual Salvationist.
‘The heartfelt passion and engagement were notable,’ Floyd adds, ‘and I loved that people from the streets, the people whom we serve, were asking us good, hard questions – for example, how will Australia One impact the lives of homeless Australians?
‘There was a good balance of questions wrestling with the foundations for the future and the pressing concerns of the present – it was a “keep you on your toes” conversation; a poignant moment, and a reminder that we all serve together; we realised we were standing alongside each other’.
The national commander knows that the biblical admonition from Galatians, to ‘bear each other’s burdens’, is part of the Army’s past, present and future.
John Cleary says that the two Australian territories, mid-merger, ‘are getting closer to a
uniform understanding of holistic mission… the important thing was the release of Lyn and Greg’s book*, which focuses on giving people a personal understanding of why they do what they do. If you can generate good personal understandings of mission, then you can build good mission structures.’
As a man intimately familiar with Salvation Army history, John says it is significant that the interactive conversation included the questions and perspectives of people who are homeless, who are fighting addictions or recovering from abuse and deprivation.
‘The diversity of experiences represented was terrific,’ he says. ‘The room was cosy, we had homeless people, ex-Salvos, employees, volunteers, officers, soldiers – Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd were open and relaxed in how they responded and handled questions, and they made use of some folks with expertise as they needed.
‘It is more important than ever that The Salvation Army has platforms for people to think and talk and share their experiences and beliefs, as all Salvos are questioning their views, roles and actions in light of the Australia One process. The more discussion and information sharing that takes place, then the healthier the process will be for The Salvation Army.’
* Partnering with God: Being a Missional Salvationist by Majors Lyn Edge and Gregory Morgan,
** The Salvo Big Band launched its CD, ‘Testify’, at Deakin Edge in Melbourne’s Federation Square one week later.