Commencement commences unprecedented virtual Commissioning Weekend
By: Brad Rowland
The USA Southern Territory embarked on the first-ever virtual Commissioning Weekend in 2020, with the opening event on Friday, June 12. The Commencement Service, which can be viewed on YouTube, annually acts as something of a kickoff to the festivities, honoring the hard work and diligent study of the Messengers of the Kingdom session over the past two years.
Major Thomas Louden, president and principal of Evangeline Booth College, provided greetings and thanks to all who have influenced and lead the cadets. He recognized the work of the session itself, the sky-high expectations for their ministry, and the reality that “even the perplexities and perils of a pandemic cannot impede the mission and march of The Salvation Army.”
The service featured musical and worship-leading contributions from the Southern Territory’s own transMission, offering songs of praise in “Great Are You, Lord” and “Goodness of God” to aid in setting the mood for worship. Diane Ury followed that time of praise with prayer and Scripture, reading from Psalm 123 and Matthew 9:35 – 10:1 to provide the backdrop for what was to come.
Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, introduced the keynote speaker for the day, Dr. Bill Ury, who joins with his wife, Diane, in serving as The Salvation Army’s national ambassadors for holiness. Dr. Ury, a renowned Christian author, speaker, teacher and a soldier of the Raleigh, North Carolina, International Corps, delivered a poignant and important message.
“Our king never coerces anyone to follow him,” Dr. Ury said. “He only invites, he welcomes. Thus, his commissioning power is to invite us into his heart. That is the foundation of all ministry.”
“This commissioning, this commencement for us, is a sacramental picture. Your parents and family who are watching from far away, they agree with you. It’s a picture of the nature of what is the Kingdom of Jesus. The King is speaking, and he wants to speak through you to any who have ears. He will never coerce, to any who will hear his very heart.”
In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus tells his disciples “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Focusing on that passage, Dr. Ury urged the Messengers of the Kingdom to remember that it is the Lord’s harvest of which he is in full control.
“He knows what it takes to minister every day, to people who don’t want to hear, don’t comprehend, are confused,” said Dr. Ury. “You may find them in your first appointment. Come alongside Jesus, Messengers of the Kingdom, and you with him will slowly, consistently, undeterredly care and tend for his harvest.”
Following the official distribution of diplomas from Major Roni Robbins, EBC director of curriculum, a vocal ensemble comprised of cadets provided a moving presentation of “God We Will Give you Glory,” recorded virtually and impressively assembled.
Cadet Konstantin Maslenikov served as the representative speaker from the session, speaking on the challenge and necessity of humility, both in ministry and in life.
“In this life, it becomes so easy to demand things and claim what is due to us,” he said. “Our self will always demand, but the pathway to excellence in the kingdom of God is paved with humility.”
Finally, winners of two significant awards were recognized, with Major Louden presenting the Principal’s Award to Cadet Mariah Deshazo and Commissioners Willis and Barbara Howell presenting the Commissioner’s Award, the highest honor in any session, to Cadet Konstantin Maslenikov.
transMission then led the singing of an uplifting anthem in “How Great Thou Art” before a closing benediction from Major Louden. The Messengers of the Kingdom will be commissioned and ordained on June 13 at 10 a.m. ET, but before that consecrated gathering arrives, the challenge to focus on God’s harvest was evident and all-encompassing in this service of celebration and recognition.
“You’re going to go to corps over your lifetime that are going to be all over this territory,” Dr. Ury said. “You’re going to give me, in years, a whole outline of your four, five, six, seven corps. It will all be marvelous history. But Jesus has gone to every one of them before you get there, and he’ll be there long after you leave. It’s his harvest. He’s the King of his own harvest.”