Religion Magazine

Beautiful Duty?

By Richardl @richardlittleda

A day with the Army

Duty wears starched shirts and dark suits. Duty turns its mouth down at the corners, perches on the edge of the sofa so as not to be too comfortable. It picks at its food, smiles politely but never laughs and appears a little heavy around the heart.

I spent yesterday with a group of people with a keenly developed sense of duty, and nothing about the description above could have been further from the truth. They wore polo shirts, floral print, collars and ties and everything in between. We laughed, we played, we learnt, we savoured our meals and we shared a common drive to serve a borderless kingdom. My companions were a group pf Salvation Army officers from the furthest corners of the United Kingdom and beyond. Our day was spent together learning about preaching, and it was my privilege to serve as trainer.

Whenever teaching others, I make it my aim to learn as well, and yesterday was no exception. These people taught me a lot about the color of duty. They have a duty to stand out as Salvation Army officers in public where many of us would seek anonymity. They have a duty to move on from each posting as and when they are instructed to. They have a duty to move on without a backward glance or a word of resentment because, as one expressed it to me ‘we signed up to serve’.  In all of that, though, I heard not the slightest hint of resentment. Theirs was not a sombre, hefty cloak of duty, but a brightly coloured garment worn with the pride born of love. Not only that, but I was struck by how many of my 15 companions were serving in the footsteps of their parents. We rarely emulate our parents unless we believe it is worth doing so.

Years ago, when I was just stumbling my way towards faith, a favorite teacher at school who had a big influence on me was in the Salvation Army. She answered many of my questions and demonstrated a practical and radiant faith. I can recall her taking the time to explain every element of the shield below, from the ‘Gospel Shots’ to the rays of fire. She and her husband went on to leave their careers and serve as Salvation Army Officers.  I remember them looking surprised when I said one week before my baptism that I had written down my testimony. “That can’t be right”, her husband said, “God might do other things between now and then. Your testimony should always be fresh”. Yesterday I met his niece – now a Salvation Army Officer. She passed on the message that she had met me, and I hope she told them that I was doing my best to keep it fresh!

Beautiful duty?


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