Delegates ‘Arise’ at Worship Arts Retreat

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Western Territory artists challenged to give their all to God.

By Karen Gleason –

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A road closure and a power outage did not deter delegates attending The Salvation Army Western Territory’s annual Worship Arts Retreat Feb. 24-26 at the Golden State Division’s Camp Redwood Glen in Scotts Valley, Calif. The 120 participants made it past the road closure to arrive safely at camp, where the power went out late Friday afternoon—a minor setback for a group of people committed to the retreat’s theme, “Arise!”

“At least we’re all here together,” Territorial Creative Arts Director Jessica Fagerstrom said. “This is when our creativity will really be put to the test!”

The dining hall had generator power, so delegates had their evening meal. Soon after, power returned and camp activities began with a main track introductory session. Delegates selected a main track and a “taster” from the fields of theatre, dance, praise and worship, creative writing, photography, illustration and sound. In their main track, delegates worked with leaders proficient in the field to produce a creative offering for the final main chapel session on Sunday.

Territorial leaders Commissioners Kenneth and Jolene Hodder participated during the retreat, both during general sessions and by dropping in on the tracks. When they stopped by the theatre track, the group was in the midst of an improv exercise, and the Hodders didn’t just observe, but jumped right in, displaying quick thinking and dramatic flair.

The general sessions progressed through various aspects of the weekend’s theme: “Arise To Your Calling,” “Arise Above Adversity,” “Arise To Your Community,” and “Arise To Glory.” Territorial Secretary for Program Lt. Colonel Lee Lescano spoke on arising to God’s calling—even if you feel incapable or unworthy—and ultimately giving back to God through the gifts he’s given you.

During “Arise Above Adversity,” Golden State Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Tim Foley used a phrase he’d never before uttered in a message: “Push through adversity,” he said. “Get over the people who’ll tell you ‘you suck.’” As a young adult, Foley heard those words directed at him during an audition; they hit him hard and he stepped away from acting for many years. He never lost his passion for the theatre, though, and today he is acting again as a member of the Territorial Arts Ensemble. “Pray for guidance,” Foley said. Remember Isaiah 44:22: “Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

Members of the Worship Arts Retreat community shared significant moments in their life’s story during the “Arise To Your Community” session. Dale Savidge, founder and executive director of Christians in Theatre led the meeting, inviting delegates to recall a significant life event. He then asked members of the Creative Arts Ensemble to recreate that event through a short skit or a living sculpture. He also asked for prayer requests, which ensemble members then portrayed. Savidge, who directed the theatre track, is also a theatre professor at North Greenville (S.C.) University.

Commissioner Kenneth Hodder spoke at the final main session, “Arise To Glory,’ reflecting on the nature of applause and glory. His humor was evident as he demonstrated the different types of applause and shared a church joke:  “Applause before a speaker begins is an act of faith. Applause during the speech is an act of hope. Applause after he has concluded is an act of charity.”

Soon though, he had listeners considering what type of applause they, as artists, are seeking. Is their aim to glorify themselves? Earthly fame and glory fade, he noted. Only one type of applause is eternal: heavenly applause.

To define glory, Hodder referred to Matthew 5, which states that glory and perfection are found only through the pursuit of Christlike character, of holiness. He also recalled Galatians 5:6, where Paul states: The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

“When we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, that inspires the applause of heaven,” Hodder said. “If you want applause, start by giving. The one audience that matters is God.”

After the message, many delegates came forward to rededicate themselves and their art to God.

Delegate Misty Raup, from the Intermountain Division, summed up the Worship Arts Retreat experience: “[I] loved the art, drama, dance, spoken word/poetry, picturesque nature, and of course the music. I’m grateful to have been challenged in my faith and my art, to have the creative part of my soul stretched… I feel refreshed and blessed to have been a part of the the Territorial Worship Arts Retreat.”

Along with Savidge, other special guests included Marlita Hill, choreographer and founder of Kingdom Artist Initiative, and William Owens, poet and playwright.

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