‘The Glory Shop’ launches in Times Square

The Lieutenants Munn–Shirsath stand in Times Square.

The Lieutenants Munn–Shirsath stand in Times Square.

The 2002 Territorial Arts Ministry (TAM) Conservatory had a profound influence on the life of young Olivia Munn. During that weeklong event, she accepted Christ as her Savior. And the spiritual seeds were sown for an initiative that has germinated 14 years later.

“I remember thinking, I wish this [conservatory] could be longer than a week,” she says. “I wish this was like a college where I could go away and just focus on dance and on Jesus.

Fast–forward to 2016, and the former Olivia Munn is now Lieutenant Olivia Munn–Shirsath, a Salvation Army officer who is married to Lieutenant Pratik  Munn–Shirsath.

Last year, the couple was assigned to the Times Square Corps in New York City. Both have a passion to see a discipleship and arts school called “The Glory Shop,” which, decades ago, was the name of a corps in Times Square.

Hitting all Strikepoints

Olivia said her original idea came into clearer focus when she heard Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, the territorial commander, lay out his “Strikepoint” agenda of deeper discipleship, skilled leadership, integrated mission, and young adult empowerment.

“I saw that this Glory Shop idea kind of summarized all of that,” Olivia says of the “Strikepoint” initiative. “I thought the time was right to pitch it. It just keeps coming back to my head, ‘We can actually do this.’”

The Glory Shop will give budding artists, ages 18–35, a chance to train in Christian discipleship and in the performing arts each year from September through June. They’ll do so at the Times Square Corps and integrate themselves into New York City’s theater community.

Beginning in 1883, The Salvation Army had a dramatic presence in Times Square. In the 1930s, Lt. Colonel Lyell Rader, Sr., created the corps known as “The Glory Shop.” But in 1987, the Army closed it and sold the building to the Rockefeller Center Foundation.

In 2002, the new corps opened at 315 W. 47 St. in the heart of the theater district.
Pratik says, “We just felt that was the most fitting name for this place and what the Lord has in mind.”

A chance to grow

Olivia said the first year’s class of six students will receive intensive training in Bible study, prayer, worship, evangelism, and service “as discipleship is the primary aim of this school.”

Pratik said, “We’re really passionate about the arts and discipleship. It’s not going to be an easy ten months. They will be rigorous, but if you want to grow, they’ll be a great ten months.

Danielle Diakanwa practices in the studio

Danielle Diakanwa practices in the studio

“We’re really passionate about the vision God has given to us and how it will play out though these students in our day and time.”

As they would for a mission trip, students will raise the $8,000 tuition, which covers the cost of room & board. They’ll also have an opportunity to receive scholarships and grants and benefit from other funding sources.

The Glory Shop will have two fulltime employees, a creative arts director, and an outreach director. Volunteers from the Christian and Salvation Army arts community will also be involved, Olivia says.

Building on strength

“People who are in The Salvation Army and are involved in the arts will love it because they’re going to have some of the same teachers from the territory and from TAM whom they know and love,” she says. “They’re going to see people who have already inspired them.”

During the summer, students will participate in the TAM Conservatory. The presentation of a show, that they will create, will culminate the curriculum.

“In our hearts, we feel the arts in this territory are strong and one of our greatest strengths,” Olivia says, “both for evangelism and discipleship.

“People who are involved in these classes are getting to know the Lord and are growing. It’s a great place for healing, expression, and self–discovery. We want to use this tool to empower, develop, grow, and invest in young adults.”

Branching out

The students will live at the Williams Residence in New York City and spend 40 percent of their time in discipleship, 40 percent in arts classes such as dance, drama, and music, and the remaining 20 percent in missions.

“They will be linked to the arts community in the neighborhood,” Olivia says. “The students are going to be involved in getting out and in telling people about Christ with their art.”

A state-of-the-art theater sets the stage.

A state-of-the-art theater sets the stage.

The ideal candidates would be Salvationists who want to grow in the Lord and who love to perform or create. Olivia also stressed that a teachable spirit is a plus.

“We want them to be all in and give 150 percent to this while they’re here. We’re looking for people who are really dedicated to this.”

“We’d love to see some of the students go into performing … in the secular world as artists, bringing the Gospel with them,” Olivia says.

Discipleship backgrounds

Pratik said he hopes The Glory Shop will help bridge the gap between believers and non–believers in the theater district.

“The whole bottom line is to shine the Light through the arts,” he says.

Olivia said she and her husband would be more involved in spiritual training and in discipleship while other teachers will handle the arts training.

The couple comes well prepared for the task. Pratik is a product of the former Project 1:17, and Olivia spent three–and–a–half years with the Army’s War College in Vancouver, Canada. Pratik said he wants the students to “get deeper in Christ” at The Glory Shop.

“We both are products of good discipleship schools and programs that the Army has started,” he says. “We feel discipleship is an important part of who we are as an Army.”

All for Christ

Olivia added, “There’s a bit of the DNA that’s going to carry over because the discipleship aspect is true for both of those schools. Young adults are at a key time in life when they’re zealous and have a lot of excitement and passion to change the world. I think it’s an important time to invest in that.”

The Salvation Army Times Square Worship Center is located in midtown Manhattan.

The Salvation Army Times Square Worship Center is located in midtown Manhattan.

The couple also has the spiritual background. Olivia is the daughter of Colonels Janet Munn, the principal of the College for Officer Training, and Colonel Richard Munn, the territorial secretary for Theology and Christian Ethics.

Originally from India, Pratik is a fourth–generation Salvationist who grew up Christian in a largely Hindu country. When Pratik’s great–grandfather became a Christian and a Salvation Army officer, his family disowned him.

“I thank God for [my great–grandfather’s] faithfulness and for the Lord’s faithfulness in his life,” he says. “I exist because of that beautiful testimony.”

Applause for Christ

Olivia and Pratik both believe the creative arts are another important way to share a testimony.

“I think any art form has an ability to cut into our hearts,” Olivia says. “I think people feel opened—without even noticing it.

“Ideally, art should also speak to the human condition. People can relate to it, seeing their own story and experience [on the stage].”

Pratik said the creativity and emotion that goes into a dance or a monologue “is a beautiful way to bring others into the presence of the Lord.”

Pratik called The Glory Shop a “beautiful ministry.”

“I think artists have this idea that art is about giving glory to self as they live for the applause. But with The Glory Shop, we want to shift the glory concept from celebrating self to applauding Christ.”

by Robert Mitchell

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