A Global Community with Local Impact
Three Generals Speak About Their Corps – Bromley Temple
As The Salvation Army’s international leaders present and past, Generals John Larsson, Shaw Clifton and André Cox have a wide global view. Yet all are soldiers of the Bromley Temple Corps, to which they have returned in later years. We asked them to reflect on aspects of their corps as The Salvation Army adopts the international theme: The Whole World Mobilising. We posed the questions and have selected extracts from their answers. They give interesting perspectives on the past, the present and for the future.
First Connections with Bromley
Just a teenager at the time, André Cox was the first to connect with the corps. That was in 1968, Majors John and Gisele Gowans the officers. This was while his parents were serving on IHQ. His corps officers, a couple of years later, were the Larssons.
John recalls the time:
‘It was thrilling to be the leaders of such an active corps. The hall at that time could seat 300 and if you wanted to get a seat on Sunday mornings you had to get there early. During the week the corps hummed with activity, as it still does today, with programmes for the young, for the elderly, for women, for Bible students and for the disadvantaged, in addition to the music rehearsals’
Shaw and Helen Clifton were the corps officers, for three and a half years from 1989.
‘We spent three very happy and productive years in the appointments. Our three children benefitted from their involvement with the corps community.’
Highlights from the past
And then recalling a highlight of their stay, Shaw writes:
‘I can recall many happy moments. One of the most satisfying was when our plans to tear down the old hall and replace it with a modernised, albeit no larger, one actually got started in 1992. I will always be grateful to the Reverend Alan Vousden of St Mark's Anglican Church for readily agreeing that the Bromley Salvationists could freely share his church while our new hall was under construction. Those months together proved the truth of Christian fellowship across denominational boundaries.’
The early 70s was the era of the Army musicals, and the corps gave repeated performances of ‘Hosea’ in Bromley and other locations, and also premiered the musical ‘Jesus Folk’ at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon. An especially memorable moment for John was when the corps presented ‘Jesus Folk’ in the Westminster Central Hall in London.
‘To hold a corps event in this large venue was quite a step of faith. But thanks to the promotion of the event by the tireless corps organising secretary, Ernest Adnams, the hall was filled to the rafters on the day.’
One of the teenagers participating in those musicals was none other than – André Cox.
A Priority for Youth
André writes about his teenage years in the corps:
‘Bromley was a wonderful place for young people and I am grateful that the better part of my teenage years was spent there. I remember with thanksgiving the many dedicated people who would devote time and energy for the young people. They had a great impact and influence upon my life though that may not always have been evident at the time. I felt that the young people were both loved and accepted "warts and all." Certainly the fact that I remained in The Salvation Army is in significant part due to the nurturing, support and training that I received through the Corps.’
John recalls special commitment to youth by one couple:
‘The corps in the early 70s teemed with teenagers and young adults and a fellowship for them was held every Sunday evening in the house of Chris and Beryl Riches. As the numbers attending kept increasing – sometimes reaching 50 or 60 – the Riches moved into a larger house better suited for such numbers. The influence of those fellowships was incalculable.’
Serving the Borough of Bromley
All three Generals acknowledge that Bromley Temple Corps has contributed practically to the Borough of Bromley over the years by a variety of forms of Christian ministry and community service.
‘The corps reinforces a Christian presence in the community and offers a warm hand of fellowship and help to folk from every class and of every circumstance. ‘
John remembers the Busy Bee Club of the 70s. This provided teaching and support for mothers who were finding it difficult to cope. On the community service front it was Ken Banham who took the lead in the 70s. Among his many initiatives to help people practically was an arrangement he made with the Fire Brigade in Bromley by which they would call him – day or night – whenever there was a major fire. In later years, the addition of the café ‘The Light’ to the Army’s property in Ethelbert Road has opened up further possibilities. Salvationists are available as ‘listening ears’ whenever the café is open. He writes:
‘Salvationist volunteer, Dawn Derham, gives a splendid lead to the practical service rendered by the corps to groups of people and individuals. These include the annual appeal for tinned food at Harvest time and appeal for toys at Christmas and their distribution to recipients. ‘
The Bromley Temple Band also supports civic occasions in the borough, and is a much appreciated presence on the High Street on Sunday mornings. Some people even time their shopping so that they can listen to the band.
André adds his observation:
‘One of the things that I like about the Corps is that it has never been totally self obsessed and inward looking. There is a genuine warmth and welcome for all, and it is pleasing to see the Corps effectively maintain the twofold mission of The Salvation Army - to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human need in his name without discrimination.’
Hopes for the Future
‘My hopes are that the corps will keep on reaching out, both with the good news of Jesus Christ and with a helping hand to those in need, and that the corps will always be a welcoming and supportive fellowship for all who come through its doors.’ (John Larsson)
‘The future lies with the younger Salvationists, some of whom will move on into full time Army ministry while others will serve Christ as salt and light in secular settings.’ (Shaw Clifton)
‘I hope that the Corps will build on the strong tradition of caring and nurturing our children and young people.’ (André Cox)
The final question to the respondents:
What would you like to see happen in Bromley during this year themed as 'The Whole World Mobilising'?
‘The concept of an Army mobilised for God takes us right back to our roots. A corps is not a flock fed by a pastor, but a fighting force led by a captain. The picture of the whole Army around the world being mobilised into even greater action for God than at present is a mighty one. And I would like to see Bromley Temple being part of that.’ (John Larsson)
‘Bromley is not the whole world, but for some it is the centre of their world. The Salvation Army in Bromley is already mobilised, as are most corps around the world. I am proud of my hard working, fellow believers in the Bromley corps and in every land where God has placed the Army.’ (Shaw Clifton)
‘I hope that the Corps will continue to expand the programmes and activities that look outwards into the needs of the community. While it is a great place to come and worship on a Sunday we are not called to gather for our own pleasure but to be equipped, energised and sent out to be living examples of God's love and grace in the world.’ (André Cox)
There’s plenty of interest and information at: The Whole World Mobilising