‘Songster Series’ puts spotlight on choral music in Carolinas

‘Songster Series’ puts spotlight on choral music in Carolinas

By: Brad Rowland

Music is often good for the soul and, across The Salvation Army world, many are looking to fill the void left by the inability to gather together in singing. With that in mind, the North and South Carolina division launched a six-part Songster Series in February, aimed at both recognizing and cherishing classic choral works and bringing musicians together virtually.

“The series really grew out of a desire to work in ministry with our adult musicians in the division,” said Nathan Cole, divisional music director. “We’ve been doing a lot of virtual work targeted to young people, and we found a need to reach out to our adults in a new and innovative way, and it has been a challenge during the pandemic.”

Cole, who grew up in a large corps in Bristol, England, took solace in a 40 or 50-member songster brigade during his youth. That opened doors to singing and worshipping through vocal literature, and that background helped to inspire the new series.

“That history has really stayed with me, but I wanted to approach in a different way,” Cole said. “A lot of the stuff that is going online has been virtual choirs when individuals are recording separately with some editing to put them together, and those are great. But what we wanted to do is record solo versions of six popular and well-regarded songster pieces, launching something of a series.”

Six pieces of music are recorded with a twist in that, originally, the works were written and arranged for full choirs. Within the series, they are adapted for solo vocal performance, accompanied by piano. Each piece was recorded at divisional headquarters in Charlotte, following health and safety protocols, and musicians from the division are featured.

In addition to the musical enjoyment, viewers of the video series are treated with interesting background on the selections, as well as a spiritual foundation. That is key to the presentation and, as Cole notes, the investment from the composers adds a great deal.

“We had a response from the composers that was well beyond my expectations,” said Cole. “When I wrote to them, I wasn’t expecting the kind of time investment many of them provided. Particularly John Rutter was fantastic, sending a detailed video within 24 hours despite his busy schedule and sizable profile.”

All six parts will be available in the coming days, and each video can easily be shared through the division’s music and arts YouTube account, with lyrics displayed over the musical selections. One focus of the series is the ability to easily utilize and implement the works in worship across the division, or even the Southern Territory, and Cole indicated that “one of the things we were keen on was that anything we created during this time could also be utilized in the future when we are gathering together again.”

Singers and musicians, both in the Carolinas and elsewhere, hope to reconvene in the near future to make music together. Until that is safe and possible, the series is drawing real attention, and the early returns are quite positive.

“It’s been extremely popular so far in my experience,” Cole said. “I think part of that is because people are missing the opportunity to sing together. It’s also a different twist in that it is a soloist performance, but with the combination of the music, spiritual background and a little bit of history, I think it works well as a total package.”

An installment, featuring a lengthy introduction from world-renowned composer John Rutter, can be seen below.


An unexpected and miraculous ministry opportunity in Atlanta

An unexpected and miraculous ministry opportunity in Atlanta

By: Chris Priest

We all know and value the tremendous work accomplished by officers and staff of The Salvation Army through the year, but we don’t always realize the amazing ministry opportunities that come their way. Here is a firsthand account that I recently witnessed.

While in a business meeting with Major Mike Vincent, Adult Rehabilitation Center administrator for Atlanta, Ga., I was able to feast my eyes on a miraculous ministry opportunity taking place at the center. So let’s begin by calling this beneficiary brother, “Jim,” for the sake of what I am about to share.

His story is similar to many who enter the doors of the ARC — a world full of hate, addiction, and torment with very little chance of survival. Jim is a professional musician and earned his money playing the piano and singing all around the world.

“I fell into the trap of accepting alcohol from fans and supporters of my music,” said Jim. “And before long… my life was in a mess.”

Upon entering the ARC in Atlanta, Jim quickly established himself as part of the praise and worship team at the chapel services on Sundays and through the week. Major Vincent shared that Jim never fails to bless his heart and soul every time Jim plays and sings. What a witness! Jim re-found the Lord at the ARC and is well into his complete recovery from addiction.

I’m setting the stage here because, unknown to me or Major Vincent while we are talking business, Jim’s parents drop in to the center on their way home to the other side of the state. The desk receptionist then called Major Vincent and informed him there are visitors in the lobby (parents of Jim) and would love to meet him! I readily agree and seconds later Jim, his mom and dad (both elderly), enter the office.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. Everyone was wearing a mask, and you could have band practice in Major Vincent’s office! So there was plenty of room, and we were socially distanced!

Major Vincent spoke highly of Jim, his ongoing recovery, and especially his music talents that bless him and so many others. You can tell the parents are very proud, while thanking Major Vincent for all The Salvation Army is doing to rehabilitate Jim.

His Mom even says “I didn’t understand why “Jim” got into such a mess, he is by far the sensible one in our family!” Then Major Vincent turns to both parents and says to each of them, “Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?” Wow! If there is a poignant moment when The Salvation Army’s true colors and motivation comes through, it was then! They both acknowledged their faith and I could tell were in some ways surprised by the question, but eager to share their answers.

Major Vincent then prays a beautiful prayer lifting all three and their extended family to the Lord for protection.

I urge all who read this to never be afraid of asking that question. ”Is Jesus Christ your personal savior?”

There is beauty in the name of Jesus,
Passing time can ne’er extol;
All the splendor of its clear unfolding
Will eternal years enroll.

In my heart there dwells a song of purest beauty,
Blissful as an echo of the angel-choir must be;
Jesus is the wondrous theme its notes are weaving,
Dearest name of names to me.

There’s salvation in the name of Jesus;
Trusting in his name alone
We shall find ourselves at last presented
Faultless at his Father’s throne.

There is comfort in the name of Jesus;
Comrade, faint amid the strife,
E’en as dew upon the spirit falling,
Jesus is the word of life.

There is rapture in the name of Jesus,
Joy that bears the soul above,
All the wealth of Heaven to earth restoring,
Name of all-redeeming love.


To Battle We Go: Marching Songs

To Battle We Go: Marching Songs

By: Dr. Steve Kellner

Every U.S. military service has its marching songs, some unique to that service, some universal to all the services. Most of us are familiar with the stirring official songs of the various services, and these are often sung on the march. But the military has dozens of marching songs covering all aspects of military life, from getting up early to leaving civilian life behind, from recounting military triumphs of past to dealing with the fear and anxiety of combat and death, and all designed to keep the unit in step and marching forward.

These songs are considered so important in inculcating the culture and espirit de corps of our military services that the teaching and singing of them begins on the very first day of basic training, led by drill sergeants specially trained to “sing cadence”. And they teach them very well. I can still sing many of these songs verbatim today, over forty years after my boot camp experience.

Many of the songs are humorous and have more mundane and practical uses, like keeping in step or relieving boredom on a long march.  But some of them are powerfully meaningful and motivating. To site just one example, the proudest and most emotional moment in any Marine’s career occurs near the end of boot camp when, having endured a kind of grueling final exam called “The Crucible”, and thereby having “earned the title” of United States Marine,  he or she is allowed for the first time to sing the entire Marines’ Hymn. Even the roughest and toughest new Marines cry like babies.

The Salvation Army, unique among denominations and Christian movements, also has its marching songs, which we call War Songs. A section of our songbook is still dedicated to these songs, and there was a time when they were sung weekly in every corps. These songs contain the culture and spirit of the Army and have been powerfully meaningful and motivating for generations of Salvationists around the world.

Yes, we share many great hymns of the church with other denominations, and they help unite us with believers the world over. But we Salvationists have a unique role within the church, and our songs should reflect that. Unfortunately, the demise of the Sunday night Salvation Meeting has meant that an entire generation of Salvationists has grown up without knowing and singing these distinctive songs.

Some may say that the militarism of songs like “Ever Is The War Cry”, “Storm The Forts Of Darkness” and “Am I A Soldier Of The Cross?” is out of step with modern culture. But it wasn’t the Salvation Army that put a military flavor into Christianity, but the apostle Paul (among many other biblical writers), who often refers to his co-workers as “fellow soldiers” and who tells us to “put on the full armor of God” and to “endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

Or is it that marching songs don’t make sense for an army that isn’t on the march much nowadays, literally or figuratively? No, The Salvation Army should always be marching to the sound of the guns, meaning toward the spiritual combat zone. And for that we need our marching songs. Sound the battle cry!


Pathway of Hope director receives national honor

Pathway of Hope director receives national honor

By: Brad Rowland

In early February, Ronald Skeete, territorial Pathway of Hope director, received an illustrious honor outside of The Salvation Army world. Pocstock, which describes itself as a diversity media agency that focuses on creating positive images of people of color, released its inaugural “Future of Black America Top 50” list and honored Skeete in the process.

“Receiving this award is both a shock and an honor,” Skeete said. “When I was nominated, I had no idea who else would be on the list and definitely didn’t think I’d be selected.”

The list includes individuals from the worlds of politics, media, fashion, technology, business, fitness, and wellness. Skeete shepherds the Pathway of Hope initiative across the Southeast, equipping individuals in the field and providing tremendous leadership that continues to make a sizable impact.

In addition to his work with The Salvation Army, Skeete is a member of 100 Black Men of North Metro Atlanta, volunteering as a mentor for young men of color.

“The company Pocstock wanted to diversify the list and include people doing good work that often may go unnoticed,” said Skeete. “I’m proud to be a part of this inaugural list and represent the great folks who work tirelessly to change communities for the better, like our teams at The Salvation Army.”


Southern Spirit recognizes editor Dan Childs in honored retirement

Southern Spirit recognizes editor Dan Childs in honored retirement

The Southern Spirit editorial staff recognizes Dan Childs, editor, for three decades of tireless work and dedication. Dan entered honored retirement with his final day at Territorial Headquarters on Friday, Feb. 12.

Dan’s steady hand was critical in crafting what the Southern Spirit embodies for a generation. He joined the staff at Territorial Headquarters in 1990, serving initially as director of communications in the Community Relations and Development department. That role featured oversight of the Southern Spirit, and Dan was named editor of the Southern Spirit in 1993, serving in the role for 28 years.

Prior to joining The Salvation Army’s staff in Atlanta, Dan earned a bachelor’s degree from the Henry Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia in 1981. Professionally, Dan was the sports editor of daily newspapers in Laurel, Mississippi, and Valdosta, Georgia, and served for several years as assistant sports editor of the Athens, Georgia, Daily News.

He spent three years as a senior communications specialist in the Public Affairs Office at the Georgia Department of Human Resources. From there, Dan later returned to newspaper work, serving as copy editor on the sports desk at the award-winning Gwinnett Daily News.

As the son of Brigadiers James and Faith Childs, Dan came of age in The Salvation Army as a young person. That provided valuable perspective and insight, and he valued the ability to share the Army’s work with others.

“Little did I realize when I set out on my career as a journalist that my path would lead me back to The Salvation Army,” Dan said. “But I feel humbled and privileged to have been given the opportunity to participate in this way in the advancement of the Army’s mission. I won’t forget the wonderful experiences I’ve had in telling the Army’s story, and I treasure the friendships I’ve made in this great territory.”

In retirement, Dan will reside in the Atlanta area, and he plans to renew a long-neglected golf game, provide some TLC to a long-neglected backyard and work in a little bit travel from time to time.

The Salvation Army and the Southern Spirit thanks Dan for his tremendous work and service.


Trial By Fire

Trial By Fire

By: Major Frank Duracher

Jamie Bradley is no hero — at least she does not think so. But to a family in the southern part of North Carolina’s Beaufort County, she certainly is.

Jamie, a regular volunteer and soldier of the Greenville Corps in nearby Pitt County, was visiting her brother at his home on the banks of Blounts Creek, a tributary of the Tar River. Despite an uncle’s funeral earlier that day, it was a pleasant December evening, and her family was spending time around a bonfire they had built near the water.

“That’s when we heard a woman screaming for help two houses down,” Jamie said. “I don’t know what I was thinking, but the next thing I knew I was running towards the screaming mother only to see her house engulfed in flames.”

Jamie’s focus instantly went to the five year-old boy standing near the house. She grabbed the toddler, and took the boy to safety back to her brother’s yard and ran back to the burning house.

The woman was now screaming for her father to come away from the house, which he was vainly attempting to douse with a mere water hose.

“By then, the flames were rolling and there was no way he could contain it,” said Jamie. “He was so close to the flames; it was frightening. I just grabbed the hose from his hand and pulled him back as the roof began to collapse.”

A few seconds later, and the family patriarch would have been killed.

But another immediate concern was for a propane tank next to the quickly-burning house. It turns out the tank did not explode, but the only family possession to survive the tragedy was their car.

When the adrenaline began to subside, Jamie was in tears when she phoned her corps officer, Major Connie Morris — as well as the officers at the Washington (NC) Corps, Captains Karl & Teresa Bush. Captain Karl arrived at the scene about the time the fire department arrived. He arranged several nights lodging at a motel and vouchers for the family to the Army’s Family Store for clothing, shoes, and other personal items.

“Captain Teresa made sure the family was taken care of for Christmas,” Jamie adds.

Fire department inspectors determined the blaze started with a short in a little snowman decoration. The spark was fed by rotting wood in the walls, and within moments the house was ablaze.

In the days that followed, Jamie reached out to her Facebook friends, who in turn responded with unbelievable generosity: gift cards, groceries, and cash donations.

“Like I said, I don’t know what got into me,” Jamie marvels. “I think it was a mother’s horrified screams that made my adrenalin kick in. I’d like to think that someone would rush to save my children and my family if it ever happened to me.”

But there is more to it than that.

The following Sunday, Major Connie so happened to be preaching on a Christian’s inner strength in times of crisis.

“It hit me that God had me there for that moment, and that He enables us to reach out to others beyond our own capacity,” Jamie said. “Coming to the aid of others in need is an extension of our Christian journey.”

And the irony is not lost on our Salvationist-hero, as she later told her brother, “We were out there around a bonfire that we built for fun; and we end up helping a desperate family who lost everything in an inferno just yards away!”

God is in control, she concludes.


The Salvation Army and its partners come together to serve local communities

The Salvation Army and its partners come together to serve local communities

Atlanta, Georgia: In January, a faithful partner of The Salvation Army, Primerica, held their third annual blank drive, collecting more than 2,500 blankets. These blankets were distributed to corps and service center locations in the Metro Atlanta area. “Many hands and hearts go into all that we do to serve,” said Roxanne Tigue, Primerica’s Program and Events Coordinator. “What an honor it is to work with The Salvation Army on this amazing project. What a blessing it is to see the lives you all are changing.”

Charlotte, North Carolina: Spencer Taylor lended a helping hand to Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs in Greater Charlotte, North Carolina. Taylor delivered 50 snack packs to Charlotte clubs as part of a program in which companies, civic groups and others are invited to help the Boys & Girls Clubs meet increased demands during the pandemic by donating snack items in bulk. The Charlotte clubs have received thousands of snack packs over the last year from more than 50 groups and individuals. In addition, school supplies, board games, art/craft supplies and sports equipment are also being donated. 

Memphis, Tennessee: On Dec. 10, an anonymous donor dropped an antique, 1.81-caret diamond ring appraised at more than $6,000 into a Salvation Army red kettle in the Germantown area of Memphis, Tennessee. The ring was inside a small plastic bag with a simple handwritten note: “Help the poor.” According to the appraisal by Sissy’s Log Cabin, the jewelry is a 14k yellow gold ring with a single, 1k diamond surrounded by 10 smaller diamonds; the stones have a “miner’s cut” typical of jewelry of the mid-19th through early 20th centuries. “We may never know the story behind the ring’s original owner or what motivated them to so generously drop it into our red kettle on that December night, but year after year, we continue to be amazed by the unwavering love and support from our neighbors,” the Memphis Corps said in a Facebook posting. “To the anonymous ring donor, your gift will change countless lives in our community this Christmas. THANK YOU!”

Rome, Georgia: The Salvation Army in this North Georgia city thanks Heritage First Bank for its “Bankers for Blankets” drive. The blankets will be used by people in the corps shelter and community to stay warm. “Thank you so much from the bottom of our ‘warm’ hearts!” the corps said in a Facebook posting.

Shreveport, Louisiana: The Salvation Army received a check for more than $1,000 from Junior ROTC students at Parkway High School in Shreveport. Funds were donated to benefit the Merkle Center of Hope shelter and raised through the La’Keia Rawls 5K Memorial Run, held annually to honor a Bossier High School graduate who lost her life to domestic violence. 

High Point, North Carolina: The Salvation Army appreciates the help it received from the High Point University Department of Physician Assistant Studies. The department donated breakfast items and paper products to The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope Family Shelter.


Senior feeding program grows in Walker County, Alabama amid COVID-19 pandemic

Senior feeding program grows in Walker County, Alabama amid COVID-19 pandemic

One of the most considerable impacts made by The Salvation Army’s Walker County Service Center in Alabama is the Senior Feeding Program. The program started in 2019, and services have amplified due to COVID-19. Volunteers and staff deliver groceries to between 250-300 seniors every week, with a high of 400 one week. Groceries are taken to the homes of seniors, ages 60 and over, who cannot grocery shop for themselves due to illness, lack of transportation, or lack of money.

“When we do this, I’m cautious about what I purchase for those bags of groceries because these seniors have no transportation,” said Cynthia Smith, Walker County social services director. “They don’t have a family who is active in their lives, so they don’t have someone to take them to the store.”

“They’re at a high risk to complications from COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions or old age, so we try to pack complete meals. If we supply a box of hamburger helper, we’re also going to be sure to supply the meat and milk to go with it,” Smith added.

The Walker County Service Center also works with a produce truck that comes on Thursday mornings at 6 am local time to collect produce boxes, which typically contain milk, eggs, cheese, potatoes, and onions. Grocery bags are packed according to the supplies received from produce boxes. Reusable face masks are also placed in the boxes every few months to replace old or torn masks, with personal hygiene products, toilet paper, and other cleaning supplies also included in the delivery.

The service center also partners with the Walker County District Attorney’s Office for senior meal delivery for seniors under mandatory isolation and quarantine. The Salvation Army provides and packs the groceries, and police officers will deliver them to seniors who cannot leave their homes.

“If they need sugar, it’s in there. If they need flour, it’s in there. We make sure to pack whatever they may need,” Smith said. “When we take groceries, we knock on the door to let them know that we’ve delivered the groceries and step away. We know them so well now that sometimes we exchange air hugs or they’ll blow kisses. Sometimes they cry. One woman cried because it had been years since she’d last seen peanut butter.”

(Reprinted from the blog of The Salvation Army Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Division. Karyn Lewis is an ALM media relations specialist.)


Southern Spirit salutes editorial coordinator David Ibata

Southern Spirit salutes editorial coordinator David Ibata

The Southern Spirit editorial staff mourns the loss of David Ibata, who passed away January 26 after contracting COVID-19. David, who had served as editorial coordinator for the Southern Spirit since October 2016, was 66.

David was the epitome of the relentless reporter with an unfailing nose for news. During his four-plus years with the Southern Spirit, he coordinated the production of the centerspread special features and served as the lead reporter for the publication, reaching into all corners of the USA South to gather stories and share them with readers of the Southern Spirit and Southern Spirit Online. A native of Chicago, he was a third-generation Japanese-American and was a founding member of the Asian American Journalists Association.

He attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, graduating with a degree in journalism. He also attended the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. David began his career at the Chicago Tribune in 1981, serving as a writer on the business and metro desks. He also served as deputy suburban bureau chief and metro source editor. He later worked as rewrite editor and breaking news producer for

In 2007, David joined the staff of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There he served as assistant editorial editor with responsibility for digital and print presentation of the Journal-Constitution’s Opinion page. He also worked as Business section coordinator, dispatch editor, wire editor and copy editor. He has continued for the past four years as a freelance editor and writer for the Journal-Constitution.

David collaborated with fellow Asian-American journalist Linda Yu in 1989 to form the Asian-American Journalists Association. The Chicago chapter of the AAJA later honored David and Linda by establishing two college internships in their names, helping create career opportunities for AAJA students and recent grads at news outlets in the Chicago area.

“David was polite and gracious, the consummate professional,” said Dan Childs, editor of the Southern Spirit. “In my 40 years in journalism, I have not encountered his equal in terms of industriousness and resourcefulness in gathering news and presenting it in an effective and engaging way. He was a pro’s pro. He will be missed.”

David was an avid amateur historian of railroads and served as the editor of the newsletter produced by the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad Preservation Society.

He is survived by wife Patricia, son Andrew, daughters Elizabeth and Karen (Josiah) Larson and two grandchildren.


The Salvation Army launches ‘Bundle of Hope Room’ to help expecting mothers in Northeast Florida

The Salvation Army launches ‘Bundle of Hope Room’ to help expecting mothers in Northeast Florida

By: Brad Rowland

In response to a nuanced need in the community and with the help of two local donors, The Salvation Army of Northeast Florida recently created the “Bundle of Hope Room” to provide a safe haven for expecting mothers. The room, housed within the Towers Center of Hope in downtown Jacksonville, is designed and furnished to cater to the specific needs of pregnant women, both from a comfort and logistical standpoint.

Beyond the accommodations, The Salvation Army is investing in case management for expecting mothers, including the goal to find and obtain permanent housing that is both safe and secure. Other case management services, including but not limited to counseling, fellowship and care for substance abuse, are offered to those in need, and the room can comfortably house up to two women at a time.

Two donors, David A. Baker and William Reid, helped to spearhead the project, and Reid was born in a Salvation Army home for mothers in Kansas City. With that background, Reid sought to aid young mothers in Jacksonville. Unfortunately, Reid passed away in late November, prior to the opening of the facility, though the dedication and opening was attended by his wife, Gayle, and daughter, Jenni Reid Smith.

“Bill always had a soft spot in his heart for the Salvation Army,” said Gayle Reed. “We were pleasantly surprised and are deeply grateful for the Baker family’s matching donation and for the incredible job that The Salvation Army’s team did in putting this generosity to such beautiful use.”

Baker and his family are passionate about helping young mothers as well, and his contributions were key in the construction of the room.

“We want to thank God for this blessing, as well as David A. Baker and William D. Reid for their inspiring generosity,” said Major Keath Biggers, area commander. “The Bundle of Hope Room will be a source of love and encouragement for years to come and we cannot wait to serve new mothers in need.”

Gayle Reid (right) and Jenni Reid Smith (left)

David and Mary Anne Baker