Commissioning: ‘We Believe’ the anthem of 2020 Commissioning, Ordination and Appointment

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Marking a year like none other, the Western Territory gathered online June 14 for the Commissioning, Ordination and Appointment Service of the Messengers of the Kingdom Session.

National leaders Commissioners David and Sharron Hudson joined territorial leaders Commissioners Kenneth G. and Jolene K. Hodder and the session on the Crestmont Campus while Salvationists around the West attended the event by livestream. 

Pre-recorded video greetings from people across the West created a “lobby”-like environment during a countdown to the virtual meeting before 28 officers were recognized for long service—between 25 and 45 years.

“When I think about the significance of this day, I’m reminded of the Army’s history—how we have adapted to situations throughout time while being flexible, nimble and creative,” said Chief Secretary Colonel Douglas Riley, who becomes the West’s Territorial Commander July 1, in welcoming attendees. “I believe God will continue to use us in a unique, powerful and mighty way for his glory. Around the world we join together to witness and celebrate the newest officers of The Salvation Army Western Territory and we rejoice in that.”

Members of the Western Territorial Staff Songsters, Territorial Youth Chorus, participants of the 2019 Western Music Institute and others from across the territory presented a rendition of “We Believe,” all recorded individually but unified in one performance.

Dr. Steven Gray, chairperson of the College for Officer Board of Governance, congratulated the Messengers of the Kingdom Session and noted the conferring of their Associate of Arts in Ministry degrees before introducing Cadet Katherine Hernandez to give her testimony live before her session mates and territorial leadership at the Crestmont Campus.

“We are ‘tiny but mighty’—10 individuals who have believed and trusted that God has placed a significant calling in our lives; thus, we have stepped out in obedient faith to answer the call to full-time ministry,” Hernandez said. “As we get ready to be commissioned and step out in faith, my challenge not only to my session mates, the Messengers of the Kingdom, but to everyone listening, is to persevere in the midst of uncertainty. To love genuinely. To pray without ceasing. To draw closer to God with each passing day. To reflect Jesus in all we do, and to proclaim God’s kingdom wherever we go.”

‘Will people see Jesus in you?’

National Commander Commissioner David Hudson, who marks 45 years of active officership and retires this month, spoke from Matthew 25: 31-40.

“When I was commissioned, I believed I had all the answers—that everything was black and white,” Hudson said. “Today I find myself asking more questions than I have answers for.”

When he walks through his new retirement home but recalls the incredible poverty he saw while walking through Kenyan slums…when he met a gay man who was kicked out of his Christian family’s home after coming out…when he sat with undocumented individuals who worked hard in undesirable labor but live every day in fear…when he saw news that a young black man was killed while simply out on a run—“where is God’s blessing on them?” he asked.

“Jesus has an incredible gift of loving everyone for who they are regardless of their background,” he said. “The political and religious leaders of his day separated and treated people different because of race, income and social status. Does that sound familiar?

“I wonder today: What does Jesus think about the church—especially here in the United States of America?” Hudson asked. He noted Jesus was drawn to the poor and marginalized and was known as a friend of sinners, though he never gave himself that title.

“The story of Lazarus should be troubling to all of us—a rich man in a palace with everything and a poor man, who was hungry and covered with sores,” Hudson said, referring to Luke 16:19–31 and recalling the rich man’s condemnation. “It wasn’t anything the rich man did; it’s what he didn’t do. He didn’t even notice the poor man.”

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray as we find in Matthew 6—thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven (6:10)Hudson said it was to bring his transforming work among his people.

He pointed to John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. And to 1 Corinthians 13, what he called “a manifesto of unconditional love.”

“Faith expresses itself through love,” Hudson said. “The mission of The Salvation Army demands action, that we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ with a message of hope, restoration, reconciliation, love, forgiveness and grace—and to meet human need in his name without discrimination.

“We don’t meet human need with an agenda,” Hudson said. “Meeting human needs and loving people as they are is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“The only Jesus many people will see is you.” 

Hudson said his prayer for The Salvation Army and the Messengers of the Kingdom is to “never lose a passion for the poor, marginalized, neglected, the hurting. They are our flock,” he said. “The world needs us to be the movement God inspired a young Methodist to be 150 years ago—the hands and feet of Jesus to love the unloved.”

Founder William Booth’s theology was correct, Hudson said. “If we want to bring people into right relationship with God, they need to see Jesus.

“My question to you is will people see Jesus in you?” he asked. “If we want to be a blessing, it’s not about what we have but about what we give to others. Messengers of the Kingdom, I ask you to live up to your name and I ask everyone watching today to do the same.”

‘Use me Lord’

Cadets Betty and Ratu Vesikula joined in song, “Use Me Lord,” with her singing and him playing piano.

“Use me, Lord. How sweet do you think those words sound to God?” asked Kenneth G. Hodder. “I imagine God is like a loving father looking down on his adoring child, reaching up to him with eyes filled with tenderness and devotion. Overwhelmed by pride, the loving father opens arms and swiftly gathers the child up in his arms, holding him close and vowing to protect and guide him as lives a surrendered life.”

Hodder said he imagines God looks out and sees a world that does not recognize how loved it really is. Filled with people who have aspirations and fears, who cherish their hopes and must deal with disappointment, who are capable of caring for or destroying one another, the world is “filled with people molded in the image of God and yet because of their imperfections, completely broken,” he said. “I imagine when he hears a man or woman pray, ‘Use me Lord,’ he rejoices and showers down love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. He invites them to a full, rich Gospel that has the capacity to cleanse the heart of every human being.

“And without that gospel, without Jesus Christ, you and I are nothing,” Hodder said. “But with it? We are unstoppable. Because whenever we Salvationists allow God to use us? The Holy Spirit comes in and changes us completely.”  

He recalled his own words from his installation as Territorial Commander three years ago, that “the strength of The Salvation Army is not found in the knowledge, skills or education of its people. It’s not found in our financial resources, good public relations or beautiful facilities. It’s not a consequence of socially relevant programs. It lies solely in our commitment to the depth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Indeed, that is even more true today than it ever has been in our history,” he said. “The focus of our ministry has not changed. It is still not about you. It is still not about me. It is still not even about us. It’s about Christ and him crucified….Our charge is to declare that message to a wounded world—and for that every single Salvationist is an essential worker.”

He called attention to the significance of two words—we believe.

“Let us resolve that our compassion will always echo our convictions, our deeds always reflect the doctrines we profess and that we will always ground ourselves in Jesus Christ and his gospel,” he said. “Wherever we are today, let every one of us say, ‘use me Lord.’”

‘We believe’

A pre-recorded video showed the Messengers of the Kingdom recite the doctrines of The Salvation Army.

As each one came on stage, Riley asked for their affirmation of service—that they would promise to faithfully maintain and proclaim the truths of the doctrines, strive to lead all people to the gospel and at all times be faithful officers of The Salvation Army. With their declaration and promise to God, they proceeded to territorial leaders Commissioners Kenneth G. and Jolene K. Hodder.

Jolene K. Hodder read each individual’s selected life Scripture verse before Kenneth G. Hodder affirmed him or her, saying: “I ordain you as a minister of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and commission you as an officer of The Salvation Army with the rank of lieutenant.” He then gave each their first appointment as a Salvation Army officer.

A surprise video compilation honored the Hodders’ time in the Western Territory as Colonels Douglas and Colleen Riley joined them on stage.

“You have led us through financially difficult times, uncertainty and unrest, through celebration and joy,” Douglas Riley said. “It has been most evident the Holy Spirit has led this Army and as you go to National Headquarters, we pray you will think of your time here in the West…and that you will find incredible opportunity to share Jesus with those you come in contact with. We promise to pray for you, too.”  

The Rileys presented a gift from the territory: a framed labyrinth of Scripture and a statue of the divine servant.

“We serve so that others might see him, and we pray as you display this in your office or home that it is a constant reminder of your service to God and the wonderful memories of serving others in the West,” Riley said. “Thank you on behalf of a grateful territory.”

Jolene K. Hodder expressed her love for the territory, saying, “You are my family and will always be my family.”

Kenneth G. Hodder said his prayer for the territory is that it will continue to glorify God in every way and, quoting 2 Peter 3:18, that you will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Colleen Riley offered a closing prayer before each new lieutenant was shown in his or her new officer trim—shoulders in red and ready to be a Messenger of the Kingdom across the West. 

See what it takes to become an officer in The Salvation Army—from calling to cadet to commissioning.  

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