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Why we became Salvation Army officers

A message from our Territorial Commander, Commissioner Lyndon Buckingham.

God spoke to me in a powerful way and I just had to respond​"

Ever thought about becoming a Salvation Army officer?

Read Lieutenant Lizzy, Captains Victoria and Simon Rowney and Lieutenants Sam and Jenni Tomlin's stories below.



Lieutenant Lizzy Dean completed officer training at William Booth College in 2017 and is in her first appointment at Oldbury corps in the West Midlands Division. 

She says: “Becoming a Salvation Army Officer has been an amazing journey of incredible highs and some lows, but through it all, there is a real sense of comfort and incredible peace knowing that God is changing peoples’ lives, and there’s a real excitement of what he has planned next for us at Oldbury. If I had said ‘no’ to Officership I would have missed getting to know amazing people, amazing places and seeing an amazing God at work.”

Originally from Crewe, Lizzy has grown up in The Salvation Army with many of her family being Salvationists. She says: “It was probably at the age of 17 when I first really understood what is was really like to be in a relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t just a head thing, but knew it in my heart. He has always walked beside me.”

How did you receive your calling to officership?

“At Summer Camp in 2014, God spoke to me in a powerful way and I just had to respond. I’d been a Divisional Youth Officer (DYO) for eight years and was seeing the children I’d been working with grow into young Christian adults who were now leading others in their faith journey. During one of the worship times at Camp I felt the Lord say that I was finished in my current role and needed to move on and into officership.

“This was tough to hear! I didn’t want to leave the people and job I loved, as well as her family and friends. After praying about it I realised that my DYO role had been preparation for God’s calling into another ministry. After two weeks of wrestling with God, I said, ‘OK, I’ll go!’ and immediately felt at peace with this decision.

What is officership like?

“Becoming a Salvation Army officer has been an amazing journey of incredible highs and some lows, but through it all, there is a real sense of comfort and incredible peace knowing that God is changing peoples’ lives, and there’s a real excitement of what he has planned next for us at Oldbury.

“If I had said ‘no’ to Officership I would have missed getting to know amazing people, amazing places and seeing an amazing God at work.”

“It’s different when you get into your first appointment. Then you begin to understand there is far more about the management of people and buildings than you expect. With two charity shops as well, it’s a huge learning curve.

“However it is such a privilege to serve the community of Oldbury. Conducting funerals and being part of peoples’ lives in those sacred moments is hard, but also a privilege and unexpected joy.  You are trusted as a minister immediately and taken into the heart of family situations that can be beautiful and heart-breaking.”

What have you learned, so far?

“Throughout my first appointment I have learned that God believes in us so much more than we believe in ourselves. God gives us what we need to do his purposes. He is a God of incredible surprises and he doesn’t let you go!”

“I’ve also learned valuable things about myself. I’ve learned that I am stronger than I think I am. I have been reminded in this first year that I love getting alongside people on their journey, much in the same way Jesus got alongside people on the road to Emmaus. He comes alongside gently. That’s how I want to journey with people, too.”

 

“It was like a physical pull; a piece of a jigsaw puzzle when you hear it and feel it click into place as well.”

Captains Victoria and Simon Rowney, who were commissioned in July 2013, will be moving appointment from Failsworth Corps. Victoria shares her story.

How did you receive your calling to officership?

“I remember the exact moment I got my calling, and can even tell you what I was wearing!  It was ten-past-two in the afternoon on Thursday, 4 June 2009. The moment is fixed in my mind forever.

“Simon was having a difficult time at work and we prayed about that a lot. We were going to vote in the European elections and I was thinking ‘I wonder if this is God’s way of telling us we should be officers?’ Then Simon turned to me and used the exact same words that I thought. We’re not the type of couple who use the same words or expressions, so it was weird.

“We decided we’d better test this calling so we went to the Design for Life weekend at Sunbury Court. I’d strongly recommend everyone to do it if they think they may want to go for officership.

“Major Mark Herbert was in charge of the sessions and he said at the start ‘We’re not going to talk about the ‘O’ word.’ On the last day Mark gave people the opportunity to come and talk to him about officership. And again, Simon turned to me and said ‘Is that a conversation we need to have?’ which was exactly what I’d just thought! I was like, will you get out of my head! But it was obviously God’s way of prompting us to do something about this calling so he gave us the confirmation.

“That was in September 2009 and we were at the College in September 2010.

“It was like a physical pull; like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle when you hear it and feel it click into place as well.”

How did your friends and family react when you told them?

“Very few people were surprised. Simon and I were the most surprised of all!  Simon’s parents were officers, so he’d been brought up in The SA all his life but had never had any feeling before about officership. I’d been going to The SA church with my parents since I was ten days’ old, so I’d always been involved with the church.

“My work colleagues at the University of Sheffield weren’t surprised and they were really supportive. I’m still in touch with them now.”

What is officership like?

“Salvation Army officership is an opportunity to dedicate your whole life to serving God through The SA by full-time ministry. Every day’s a challenge but I’ve never regretted it for a second.”

“I’ve loved my time at Failsworth. You might be told some really good news and then straight afterwards hear something that’s really sad and you have to deal with it and be strong. You might get asked to do something for the mothers and toddlers or a funeral director will phone to ask if you’re free for a service.

“You might even get asked, ‘Do you want half a hundred weight of onions?’ That happened to me one day: a local business over-ordered on onions and had 40 sacks of them sat on pallets. In the end we distributed them among the community and other corps in the division.

“When you become an officer you study and explore what makes you, you, and where The SA believe you can be used best under a covenant that says you’ll go wherever you’re sent. It’s a great adventure. I’m really looking forward to our new appointment in Weymouth; I’ve never lived by the sea! It’s my overriding prayer that God gives me the grace to support that community in the areas they need it most.”

Are you looking forward to Candidates Sunday?

“Yes, Candidates Sunday is always a good day, especially when the corps has candidates for officership. 

“This year our worship will be led by Ian Barker who is from Failsworth but moved to WBC last September when his wife Jenni began officership training. We’re delighted that Ian now feels able to continue his journey towards officership, and I’m so glad to be a small part of that journey.”

 

Sam —"the more I learnt about what being an SA officer entailed, the more important it became"​

Lieutenants Sam and Jenni Tomlin are enjoying their first appointment as corps officers of Salvation Army in Liverpool Stoneycroft. 

How did you receive your calling to officership?

Sam says: “I grew up in the Anglican Church. My Dad's a vicar, so I always had faith around me although I did question my faith a lot in my teenage years. Looking back I would say this questioning was really important for me. At that time, I felt like it was my parent's faith not mine and prompted me to really look into myself."

“In University, my faith became very real to me. We had a group of Christian friends, one of which was Jenni who is now my wife. She ​had grown up within The SA and she presented me with the Gospel as she understood it, her history within The SA and what being a Salvationist meant to her; particularly the church's duty “to the last, the least and the lost". 

“At University we went to an Anglican Church and we had a strong group of friends. We all met together where we lived and talked about faith a lot.

“I left university and moved to London and started going to Wood Green Corps where Jenni's parents were officers. I continued to grow in my faith as I got to know more about The SA and really started to think about officership. It was a gradual thing though; the more I learnt about what being an SA officer entailed, the more important it became."

How did your friends and family react when you told them?

“Most of them were happy because they realised that the jobs I'd been doing hadn't really fulfilled me in the way I wanted. Most of my immediate family were Christians and overall they were positive. They tested me a bit, kept asking me if I was really sure, but overall my parents were satisfied with my decision.

“The thought of me moving away was one of the most difficult parts of being an officer, especially as they live in London still. It's never happy when you move away but they understand that God sometimes calls us and we have to go.  

How would you explain what officership is?

“That's a good question. It's not quite the same as being a vicar; The SA is strong on the 'priesthood of all believers' so I suppose being an officer means that you give your life over to The SA as well as to God.

“The SA can send you wherever they want so you give up that sense of deciding where you go. As an officer you're committed to the mission of The SA, whereas if I were an ordinary member of The SA, I would get a job elsewhere. The difference is The SA pays us to have that time to give up to the church. 

“Saying that, I think we sometimes can draw too much of a line between officers and members, in The SA but basically if you believe in God and The SA you are a member like everyone else.  It's just that I ended up being an officer.

“Officership is a specific calling. Not everyone has that calling, but it would be good if more people considered it might be something for them."​

Describe your current posting

“We're at Liverpool Stoneycroft Corps, just outside of Liverpool centre. It's a lovely corps small to medium-sized corps and feel really welcome by the people here.  

“There's lots going on; we've got toddlers on a Monday, lunch club on a Tuesday and Recycles, a bike project that offers free courses on bike maintenance.  We're also part of a community sponsorship scheme for the resettlement of refugees.

“There are a lot of people in need locally. It's quite hard sometimes to see the different situations people find themselves in. That's a challenge, knowing where to put your energies and effort. There are so many things locally to do; you can't do everything, especially in a smaller corps, you have to choose. 

“We've got two children under 16 months, the youngest one's 10 weeks old so Jenni's on maternity leave at the moment.  Trying to balance it all can be tricky. The corps have been really helpful; cooking meals and looking after the older one. Our corps really love both of our little ones, which is so wonderful for us."​