Monday, 14 December 2015

Journey through Advent 3

We come now to the journey of the Wise Men. We read in Matthew's Gospel.

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod,Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."
These men had travelled far and did not really know where they were headed. They simply knew they had to follow a star to find a king. Looking for a king they went at first to the palace, where you would probably expect a king to be, but of course, the king they were looking for was not there. So they continued to follow the star and came at last to where Jesus was, there they bowed down and worshipped him and gave the gifts they had brought with them.
Sometimes we don't always look for Jesus in the right places. God speaks to us in many different ways, sometimes not in the way we expect. But, like the wise men, if we continue to follow then God will guide us. As get closer to Christmas keep following the star and do not let yourself get distracted by the trappings and bustle of this season, follow the star to the manger and find the baby there.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Journey through Advent 2

Our second journey this Advent is to think of the journey of the shepherds.

They were quietly watching their sheep in the fields when something dramatic happened - the skies were filled with angels singing and praising God. They were told to go to Bethlehem and see a baby.

We read in Luke's gospel

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
1Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

It was hard work being a shepherd, you  were out in the fields all day protecting your sheep against any danger. Shepherds were not very important people, they had no influence in the society of the time. Can you imagine how they felt when angels appeared to them and told them this news. They put aside their fear, they trusted in what the angels told them and they went to Bethlehem to see this amazing and wonderful thing, to see this amazing and wonderful child, born not in a palace but lying in a manger.

This advent let us remember those who live on the outskirts of our society, those who have no influence, let us remember that the child was born in the manger for them.

The Salvation Army has teamed up with Shakin Stevens towards the re-release of his classic hit Merry Christmas Everyone. Shaky has re-recorded the hit and renamed it as Echoes of Merry Christmas Everyone, with the proceeds of sales for this year going to The Salvation Army.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Journey through Advent 1

This Advent as we journey towards Christmas I thought we could think a little on the various journeys that were made at the first Christmas.

The first journey to pause and think about is the journey that Mary and Joseph made. They journeyed first to Bethlehem to be registered there because of the decree that Caesar Augustus issued. We read in Luke’s gospel:

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

This would not have been an easy journey, the road would have crowded with other people also going to Bethlehem, it would have been hot, dusty and Mary would have been tired and soon to give birth. They would not have had many possessions with them. Then when they arrived at Bethlehem they could not find a room to stay in.

Their next journey was a frightening one, we read in Matthew’s gospel

“Now when they (the wise men) had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Again not an easy journey to make, with a young baby this time. They fled not knowing what awaited them, they fled with little possessions. They made a journey from danger to safety, trusting in the Lord.

As we think about the preparations we are starting to make for Christmas let us also think about those today who are making journeys to safety.  Let us remember those refugees who are fleeing for their lives, from places torn apart with war and destruction, refugees who are hoping for a safer life. They are fleeing with little or no possessions to a place they do not know, let us remember to pray for them this Advent season.


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Celebration at Glasgow City Centre Corps

Last weekend it was celebration time at Glasgow City Centre Corps with the opening of its new community church. The oldest and youngest members of the corps cut the ribbon at a day of thanksgiving for the whole community in Anderston.

When the Salvation Army first expanded from England into Scotland the first corps was in Anderston in 1879. Now the corps enter a new chapter with the opening of their new building.  The building on Houldsworth Street features a modern glass front, generous grounds for a community garden and facilities for local residents which include a cafe, a larger open plan hall and a prayer space.

Captain Matt Butler says "We are now in a great position to continue to deliver our Sunday worship and our popular God's Groovy Gang children's ministry. We are also excited to be exploring the opportunities to start new programme and activities and we have a fantastic cafe space that we are looking forward to opening in the New Year.  It's been an incredible journey to get to where we are with this new building. Our thanks and blessings go to all those who worked tirelessly to bring us such an incredible space."

Majors Russell and Catherine Wyles, Divisional Leaders joined with the corps for the celebrations. Major Russell Wyles says "we recognised the needs of the community in Anderston. This new centre will give us an exciting opportunity to demonstrate our belief of changing people's lives within communities and enhance the already strong ties we have with local residents."

Friday, 30 October 2015

How are we doing?

The Salvation Army in the UK is currently emphasising TIDE – Transformation, Integration, Discipleship and Effectiveness. On the matter of effectiveness, it was the management guru Peter Drucker who said some years ago: ‘The Salvation Army is the most effective organisation in America. No-one even comes close to it in respect to clarity of mission, ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication and putting money to maximum use’.

Looking at each of these points, can we ask ourselves ‘how are we doing?’

  • Clarity of mission. Jesus was very clear about his purpose. His opening words in Mark 1:15 were ‘The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news’. He was announcing the good news of the kingdom – not just in words, but in deeds as the rest of the chapter shows. Our mission is also to bring the kingdom near in word and deed. Every corps and centre should be clear about this, should encapsulate it in a mission statement, and ensure that every activity is aimed at achieving it.
  • Ability to innovate. The opening shots of the American War of Independence were fired at the battle of Concord in 1775. The British troops insisted on marching down the road in formation, while the American militia men hid among the trees and took pot-shots at them. The British lost the battle because they failed to adapt to the terrain. Our social and cultural terrain is constantly changing and so we need to innovate to remain relevant and effective.
  • Measurable results. Acts records that 3,000 were saved on the Day of Pentecost and the Lord ‘added to their number daily’. Every few chapters we read that the word of God spread and the church grew. These were measurable results. That’s not to say that everything good can be measured. Much valuable ministry cannot be estimated in terms of numbers or tangible outcomes. But effective ministry and mission will have some measurable results, whether it’s in terms of attendances, membership or numbers of people helped. 
  • Dedication. Back in the 1980s Roy Castle presented Record Breakers. At the end of every show he would sing the theme song: ‘If you want to be the best, if you want to beat the rest, dedication’s what you need’. Yes, it is what we need even if we aren’t planning on breaking any records. Dedication sometimes goes unrecognised and unrewarded, but it is vital for our effectiveness. 
  • Putting money to maximum use. Whether we’re entrusted with money given by our own members, by the public or by government agencies, we have a responsibility to be good stewards. Careful planning, budgeting, accounting and spending are all part of this. Money is a kingdom resource – let’s use it wisely and well for the kingdom’s sake.     

So, how are we doing?

Lieut-Colonel Jonathan Roberts

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

All Scotland Discipleship Weekend

Over 100 people from all over Scotland gathered at the Macdonald Aviemore Hotel the first weekend in October for the All Scotland Discipleship Weekend. It was a time of praise, worship, teaching, and challenge on how to live your whole life for Christ.

The teaching throughout the weekend was based on the Whole Life Discipleship material from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC). Neil Hudson led seminars on Introduction to Whole Life Discipleship and Going and Growing as Disciples; Ruth Walker led a seminar on God in the Workplace; Rev Gordon Kennedy led a seminar on The Whole of Life for Christ and Lieut-Colonel Robert McIntyre led a seminar on Prayer and Whole Life Discipleship.

The seminars were well attended and provided lots of interesting and thought provoking ideas and discussion.

Whole Life Discipleship is about living every minute of your life for Christ, being a 24/7 Christian and not just a one hour on a Sunday Christian. Have you ever thought about where you spend most of your time in the week and have you thought about living for Christ in this time, your work time, your family time, your leisure time.

It is good to meet together on a Sunday and be the ‘Gathered Church’ but think how effective we can be as the ‘Scattered Church’ every day in our work place or our leisure time and in our families. We need to learn to live effectively as Christians in these places.

The concept of one degree shifts was talked about a lot – the idea that a small change can, over time, bring about a significant change in direction. We were challenged as to what one degree shift we can make in our lives to influence others for Christ. Can we pray for our colleagues at work, for our boss, do our lives demonstrate our belonging to Christ. Do we smile and talk to the check out girl in the local supermarket, to the bus driver.

There was also a separate childrens and youth programme and the young people shared with everyone what they had learned over their time together.

For me this slide sums up the weekend:

Friday, 21 August 2015

Street Drama

This week we have been involved in a series of street dramas to raise awareness of human trafficking.

The joint initiative, organised by The Salvation Army’s Scotland Office and the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group, took place during the Edinburgh Festival's Just Festival – and sees market stalls in different locations around the city selling ‘people’ as commodities – based on real life stories of human trafficking victims.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Roberts, The Salvation Army’s Assistant to the Secretary for Scotland, said: "Human trafficking is taking place all around us; in our local communities and perhaps around the corner from where we live. We want people to know they can play a role in stamping it out.

"The Salvation Army has a long history of supporting victims of human trafficking and pressing for their legal protection. In England and Wales we have provided support services to more than 2000 adult victims of human trafficking in the past four years.”

The street drama is the idea of Keith Turton, The Salvation Army’s drama co-ordinator. Keith said: "We think of slavery as people being chained up and in ropes. That may have been the case hundreds of years ago but nowadays it’s much less obvious to the casual observer.

"And so the idea is to have a market stall where we will pretend to sell human beings. We will have a rail of clothing that depicts the work that people do. You can dress these people up to show how they are seen as just commodities.

“It’s a dramatic way of highlighting the issue of trafficking and it’s a way of saying: ‘people shouldn’t be bought or sold.’”

Hazel Watson, Convener of the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group, added: “All human beings have intrinsic value and have the right to live with dignity in freedom. This drama, shocking as it is itself, is a way of highlighting the reality of human trafficking that is far more shocking. We can all play our part in efforts to combat this horrendous crime.”

The Salvation Army, along with the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group, has contributed to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill, which is currently going through the Scottish Parliament. The Bill will create a specific offence of human trafficking for the first time as well as increase the maximum penalty for offenders to life imprisonment.

Lt-Col Roberts added: “The Salvation Army welcomes this new legislation being introduced by the Scottish Government because it aims to keep victims central, both by tackling offenders and supporting victims.”

The Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group will also be using the UN Gift Box initiative to raise awareness of human trafficking. The initiative is created by Stop The Traffik and the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking (UN GIFT). Two large, walk-in boxes have been created to symbolise trafficking and will be dotted around Edinburgh to provide information and first-hand accounts and pictures from victims inside. Each box highlights a specific aspect of human trafficking – be it forced labour or sexual exploitation.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Seeking Justice where you are

Two new publications by Salvationist authors highlight the importance of seeking justice in local situations through community organising.

Marching Towards Justice: Community Organising and The Salvation Army

This is a good introduction to community organising by Majors Kerry & Nick Coke and Lieutenants John & Naomi Clifton. It is based on their own experiences in Stepney and Ilford. It is a 48-page booklet divided into three sections:

1. History. Examples of TSA's justice-seeking activities in the past.
2. Methodology. An outline of the four steps for community organising: visitation, power analysis, training & development, and public action.
3. Stories. Examples of community organising by TSA in Ilford, Stepney and Camberwell.

The document can be downloaded free here:
There is also a blog associated with it:

Just Mission: Practical Politics for Local Churches

This is written by Dr Helen Cameron, Head of Public Affairs at THQ. It goes deeper and wider than Marching Towards Justice and is a helpful handbook for anyone wishing to address social justice issues in their community. It emphasises that justice-seeking goes alongside evangelism and social action in the mission of God. It outlines eight steps in the process of justice-seeking and includes helpful case studies.

1. What is the burning issue?
2. Building the team
3. Building the case for change
4. Engaging with the Christian tradition
5. Identifying who you need to speak to and what you will ask
6. Making contact
7. Amplifying your voice
8. Evaluating your impact

It is not free - it costs £19.99 - but is a good investment!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Edinburgh Prison Visitors Centre

The Edinburgh Reporter blog shared the story of how we’re working with the Scottish Prison Service and Police Scotland to ensure HMP Edinburgh is a welcoming environment for visiting children.

The initiative has been developed as part of HMP Edinburgh’s community engagement strategy, whereby The Salvation Army delivers daily services to focus on building a rapport between children and police staff through interactive activities such as arts and crafts.

As part of our work, we aim to encourage and facilitate dialogue between those who are visiting HMP Edinburgh and police officers, and raise awareness of the rights and responsibilities of both communities.

The children were given opportunities to dress-up, learn about police cars, and meet representatives from other emergency services such as fire and ambulance. Prison dogs Buck and Ollie, who work with their owner at HMP Edinburgh, proved particularly popular!

Our Edinburgh Visitors’ Centre Co-ordinator, Kerry Watson, said: “We set out to break down the barriers and that has worked really well, we are confident that the children and their families have experienced a really positive fun day with community police and our friends in the Fire Service.”

She added: “This important educational initiative, identified through our parenting project at the centre, has gone a long way to reverse some of the negative comments we heard about the emergency services, our aim will be to continue to invest in this work and have similar days every six weeks.”

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

What kind of reward?

The newspaper headlines recently have been filled with the news of alleged cheating in the world of premier athletics. Although most of the allegations are historic, it does still have a resonance for the present day, where the human challenges of sports endeavour push the limits of the legal and moral boundaries. This following on from allegations made against the senior leadership of FIFA, more detail being made available almost daily.

Through our televisions we can share the success of athletes pushing their body to the limit where success and failure are measured in milliseconds. The power of the audiences watching any sport, including football, can alter thinking and behaviour where the dollar is the driving force. Headlines such as those we hear and see just reinforce that human nature is very fragile and succumbs to the power of both fame and wealth.

What we do not hear about so often are the acts of kindness that many people undertake each day that do not reach the headlines. Families around us often have to sacrifice their own time and often money to support less able family members. These occasions are often life events; some are predictable and some are less so, but each mean that we can be called to be the extra support for friends, family, corps members, and often some unexpected contacts we have never met before.

When we give of our time and give of ourselves to help those who are less fortunate than we are, we realise that it costs very little in pounds and it is not done for the power or for position, it is undertaken in love for each other. Power, position and wealth are often transitory in nature.

The commitment to each other, that we show for those around us and the peace that we bring in our daily lives will last and our reward will be much more precious than fame or fortune.

Taken from the West Scotland Division Circular

Monday, 8 June 2015

Praise for The Salvation Army's work in Scotland


The transformational ministry of The Salvation Army in Scotland was the focus of BBC Radio Scotland in an extended feature. The high profile Sunday morning programme, hosted by Sally Magnusson, provided listeners with a historical context of William Booth's Christian and social mission from Assistant Scotland Office Secretary, Lt Col Jonathan Roberts.

Lt Col Carol Bailey, Scotland Secretary, unpacks the relevance of the Army's mission to save souls and grow saints in society today. During an inspiring interview, Gorgie Corps bandmaster, Keith Johnston explains that bands are more than just playing music, they communicate the Gospel and enhance the worship.

Joining forces to drive mission through practical professional support from the Scotland Drug and Alcohol strategy, Stirling Corps and Homelessness Services Unit, is also a focus through 'Sandy', who honestly expresses how God has saved his life from addiction.

The full interview is available on BBC iPlayer. It last for 13 minutes and starts at 1:31:40.

Friday, 5 June 2015

The Poem of Your Life

Do you have a favourite song or artist that you would like to see featured on the blog - let us know in the comments.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Quiz Answers

As promised here are the quiz answers from last weeks post - quiz

Heart & Soul 2015


1. Who started The Salvation Army (TSA)?

                      William Booth                  

2. In which year did the TSA begin?


3. Where did the SA begin?


4. What was it called before it became The SA?

           The Christian Mission

5. In which year did The Salvation Army come to Scotland?


6. In how many countries is the TSA at work?


7. Which of these countries does the TSA not work in?


8. Who is the international leader (the General) of the TSA?

          AndrĂ© Cox              

9. What is the name of the TSA's weekly newspaper?

          The War Cry

10. What does the TSA call its hostels for homeless people?


11. What does the TSA call its churches?


12. How many churches does the TSA have in Scotland?


3. How many primary schools does the TSA run worldwide?


14. How many maternity hospitals does the TSA run worldwide?


15. Where is the TSA's International Social Justice Commission based?

           New York     

How well did you do?

Monday, 25 May 2015

Heart & Soul

 Last Sunday afternoon The Salvation Army took part, for the first time, in the Church of Scotland's Heart and Soul Festival. This is an annual event held in Edinburgh during the week of the Church's General Assembly. Thousands of people from all over the country - and further afield - descended on Princes Street Gardens for the event.

Many of the visitors came to our stand, including one from Germany and one from Spain. We gave away 100 copies of the War Cry (our weekly newspaper) and 100 copies of Kids Alive (our weekly children's comic) - and we could have handed out many, many more. We also provided information leaflets about our work in Scotland, handed out the 2014 Annual Review for the SA in the UK and Ireland, and gave away balloons, pens, badges, stickers and sweets. It was a popular stand!

Govan Citadel Band played music at the fountain and by the main stage before marching down the central avenue. All in all we made our presence felt and helped to highlight the part the Army plays on the lives of people and communities up and down Scotland.

At our stand we also gave out quiz sheets to see how much people know about the Army. The questions are below. Have a go and see how you do. We'll put the answers on the blog next week.

Heart & Soul 2015


1. Who started The Salvation Army (TSA)?

          William Tell            William Booth                    William Wilberforce

2. In which year did the TSA begin?

          1865                      1870                      1875

3. Where did the SA begin?

          Nottingham             London                              Bristol

4. What was it called before it became The SA?

          The Salvation Mission                The Christian Army        The Christian Mission

5. In which year did The Salvation Army come to Scotland?

          1877                      1879                      1883

6. In how many countries is the TSA at work?

          87                         101                        126

7. Which of these countries does the TSA not work in?

          Cameroon                Greenland                Bangladesh

8. Who is the international leader (the General) of the TSA?

          AndrĂ© Cox               Frank Booth             Carol Bailey

9. What is the name of the TSA's weekly newspaper?

          The Good News        The Watchtower       The War Cry

10. What does the TSA call its hostels for homeless people?

          Elevators                 Lifehouses               Arks

11. What does the TSA call its churches?

          Chapels                   Meeting houses        Corps

12. How many churches does the TSA have in Scotland?

          58                          76                          89

3. How many primary schools does the TSA run worldwide?

          985                        1,092                      1,241 

14. How many maternity hospitals does the TSA run worldwide?

          26                          35                          42

15. Where is the TSA's International Social Justice Commission based?

          London                             Geneva                   New York