Reflectors of Holiness session commissioned 

By Hugo Bravo, Robert Mitchell, and Warren L. Maye

Commissioning weekend was the culmination of  extraordinary recognition, reflection, and celebration that began on Friday with Commencement in the morning, The Fellowship of  the Silver Star Luncheon that afternoon, and spirited worship in the evening that brought the theme “Together in Holiness” to life.


Lt.  Colonel James LaBossiere, College for Officer Training (CFOT) principal, began the Commencement Service for the Reflectors of Holiness session by declaring the day as a special day for The Salvation Army USA Eastern Territory.

“These cadets behind me were first called by Jesus Christ. They came to the College for Officer Training in faith, and they are committed to Christ, His mission, and His people,” said LaBossiere “Rigorous academic studies, multifaceted worship, discipleship opportunities, and practical field experiences – all of that, woven together, provided a holistic training experienced for these men and women.”

Along with their officership, each of the cadets have earned an associate degree in applied sciences. LaBossiere stressed that both of those accomplishments are significant and worthy of celebration.

“To each cadet this morning, we say, ‘well done’,” said LaBossiere.

Chief Secretary Colonel Ivan K. Rock acknowledged the work done by the CFOT’s Strategic Oversight Council. This group’s job is to review changes and updates to the work, study, and philosophy of the cadets’ training. The Council is made up of officers, theologians, scholars, Salvationists, and non–Salvationists.

“All of them have one thing in common. It’s their deepest desire to help produce, through the training process, the strongest possible officers that we can achieve for The Salvation Army mission,” said Colonel Rock.

Major Sunkyung “Sunny” Simpson presented awards to cadets who have shown exemplary Bible knowledge, outstanding scores on tests, and the highest–Grade Point Averages for their two years of studies. Cadet Jennifer L. Moretz Pizzirusso, who is graduating with a perfect 4.0 GPA, was the valedictorian for the Reflectors of Holiness. In her speech, Moretz said that each of her fellow cadets had come to the CFOT already having achieved so much in life, and they continued doing so while in training.

“Some have learned new languages, others have grown as leaders, some have completed independent studies and contributed to our fellowship in so many unique ways,” said Moretz.

“I want to thank The Salvation Army for investing in us, providing for us, and giving us so many resources and opportunities. As we each walk across the stage this morning, we honor and recognize everything that has been part of us these past two years,” said Moretz. “But all these things will never fully equip us for whatever happens in the future. For this calling, only God can equip us for what is ahead. So, we give thanks to Him first and foremost. He has called us, He has quipped us, and He will continue to walk with us daily, to serve Him faithfully.”

In her closing Commencement address, Commissioner G. Lorraine Bamford, Territorial President of Women’s Organizations, said the cadets were like the disciples that Jesus had sent out into the world. They too, were reflectors of holiness, because they walked side by side with Jesus.

“Anyone can be nice and kind, but to truly reflect holiness, we must be one with the Lord,” said Bamford.

Worshiping together in music

Special guests Pastor Jim and Carol Cymbala and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers offered a stunning concert reminiscent of their appearance during the Salvation Army’s Mission Kaleidoscope Congress of 2007 at Hershey’s Giant Center.

This night, combined with heartfelt testimonies from several singers and spirited solo performances by longtime partner in ministry, Alvin Slaughter, the Cymbalas, and singers left an indelible impression. Pastor Cymbala encouraged everyone in the audience not to worry, but to take every step forward in faith.

Commissioner William Bamford said of the Cymbalas, “They are family. They are our brother and sister in Christ, and our connections run deep.” Carol Cymbala said that it was an honor to be with the Army. She acknowledged the diversity in the families that had come to Commissioning to support their loved ones.

“Look around you. That’s what Heaven will look like,” said Cymbala. “We pray that you are blessed, encouraged, and uplifted as we lift up the name of Jesus tonight.”

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers captivated the audience with their vibrant, spiritual sound. The crowd sang along, and some singers shared personal testimonies between songs.

Before the final performance, which the Singers sang with the Eastern Territorial Songsters and accompanied by the NYSB, Pastor Cymbala talked about the dangers of worrying, and how it can deteriorate both body and soul.

“Worry is deadly. We can worry our lives away, and it won’t change a thing. It opens you up to sickness and takes the joy. You can’t be worried and have faith at the same time. If you’re worried, you’re not walking in faith with the Lord,” said Cymbala.

The Hands–On mission teams who will be soon on their way to Greece, Uruguay, and Costa Rica (along with the CAST team) were also recognized, as well as the newly formed Territorial Officers Express Council, which will serve as a sounding board for administration with respect to the needs and concerns of officers throughout the USA Eastern Territory. Other initiatives such as the Arsenal, a support service to officers; the Information and Technology Council which will ensure such tech is user friendly and effective; and youth ministries, were also mentioned.

Star Search Display

Saturday was an exciting day of Star Search—a display of the abundance of talented young people rising throughout the territory. They gathered and demonstrated their skill as singers, instrumentalists, dancers, and other creative artists.

The Hershey Lodge was filled with children’s laughter and music as many as 900 youth took part in the territorial Star Search finals in various music and arts programs.

The Westbury, N.Y., Corps from Long Island brought 40 participants, more than any other corps. Captain Jean Sainteme said this corps, the territory’s largest and predominately Haitian, is a busy place with lots of youth programs. “They are the future of The Salvation Army,” he said.

Berthon Sainteme, the corps officer’s son, who won a first–place honor in Level 1 Drum Set Solo, had a similar take on why he performs. “I do it for the Lord because He gave me the power to play an instrument,” said Berthon.

During a raucous afternoon awards ceremony full of energy and cheering, Major Leslie Knaggs, the territorial youth secretary, led everyone in a game of “The Bible Says,” a play on the popular “Simon Says.”

Using the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Daniel 9, Knaggs told the audience how the three refused to bow to idols and were put in a fiery furnace, but survived because they stood firm for God. She also noted how many youths had practiced the song “I’ll Stand for Christ.”

“My prayer for you, my prayer for us, is that we’ll remember more than just the words for a competition, but that we will remember that message for life—that I can, and I will stand for Jesus, no matter what comes my way,” she said.

“Just like with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—Jesus will be with you.”

The crowd enjoyed the College for Officer Training Timbrels team. The NYSB presented “The Creation Story.”

In the official Star Search program, Commissioners Bamford told the finalists they were “surrounded today by people that love you and care for you deeply.” Bandmaster Derek Lance, the territorial music secretary, said the hope was that every participant “would be enriched by the experience of offering their gifts and grow closer to the Lord.”

Ordination, commissioning, and appointments

Sunday morning offered a most memorable series of events as it brought the entire weekend to its conclusion.

The music of the NYSB, Move and UNBOUND set the tone for a day that would see the ordination, commissioning, and appointment services of the Reflectors of Holiness session.

A highlight of the morning came when Commissioner Devon Haughton, Territorial Commander of the Caribbean Territory, took the platform and delivered a challenging and wholehearted message. “These have been awesome days with God,” he said. “The memories are emblazoned on our hearts. We have renewed friendships and added many new friends on the journey.”

Then Commissioner Haughton turned his attention to the session before him and said, “Reflectors of Holiness, this is your day. I thank God for each of you and pray that the significance of this day will forever live with you, will forever be on your hearts.”

Under the theme, “Holiness, the transformation begins with me,” Commissioner Haughton reflected on his courses of study, and how he had come across a definition for holiness. “Holiness is to be made whole, complete, satisfied, and not complaining, and to be set apart to be used by God. Hmm. I want to read that again!”

He did so, and peeled away layers of meaning that left his audience with a clear vision.  “This is sacrifice, devotion, and love at its highest level,” he said. “Because in the process of doing so, others will also choose to live holy lives.”

Shouts of “amen!” and “praise God!” filled the room when the new lieutenants of the Reflectors of Holiness session reentered the Great American Hall in Hershey, Pa. following their ordination and commissioning ceremony.

With smiling faces and tears streaming, they waved red, yellow, and blue flags of The Salvation Army and marched briskly toward the enormous platform where their territorial leaders, Commissioners Bamford stood and applauded them amid much cheers from a capacity crowd.

Music from The New York Staff Band (NYSB) was explosive. Gigantic screens at left, right, and center stage magnified every movement and facial expression of the marching officers. A dazzling array of colorful visual effects served as a fitting backdrop to the entire scene.

Powerful audio systems amplified the cheers, shouts, and music. The emotional and spiritual intensity was irrefutable.

Every individual, every couple, and every family associated with this cohort breathed easier now. Tense and relentless academic preparation, guidance, and coaching was replaced with excitement, anticipation, and gratitude for all that led to this sacred moment.

Transformative power

Commissioner Verona Houghton, Territorial President of Women’s Ministries for the Caribbean Territory, offered a prayer for the newly appointed lieutenants.

On Friday, she had spoken to parents and significant others of the–then cadets during the Fellowship of the Silver Star Luncheon. During that time together, she reflected on her own ordination and commissioning that took place 47 years ago in her home of Jamaica.

Lieutenant Elias A. Pizzirusso had missed the Fellowship of the Silver Star luncheon because he attended to the promotion to Glory of his mother in Argentina.

Lieutenant Jennifer L. Moretz Pizzirusso, his wife, had saved a seat beside her for him during the luncheon in anticipation of his late arrival.

Now on Sunday, with all eyes on Pizzirusso, he collected himself and delivered an empathetic Session Response to his audience, both in the room and via livestream.  “I know my pain,” he concluded, “but I cannot feel your pain. I cannot make you feel qualified, just as you cannot make me feel qualified. But with that, comes a good thing. Because the only One who can qualify you is God! He wants to do amazing things through you!”

The winner of this year’s Commissioner’s Award was Stephanie M. Garces Alcantara. She also honored her mother during the Fellowship of the Silver Star Luncheon.

During the Appointment Service, Commissioners Bamford frequently paused to acknowledge profound waves of laughter, tears, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit as the new lieutenants came forward, saluted, and received their first ministry assignments.

Responding to the call

At the conclusion of the program, Commissioner William Bamford stood on the platform, outstretched his arms wide, and invited anyone in the audience who felt the call of God on their lives to become a Salvation Army officer, envoy, or employee. He implored them to come forward, and to acknowledge that calling.

Commissioner Bamford made it clear that they are needed now more than ever. He said that the days of COVID must be behind us, that our numbers must increase. We must take on the responsibilities of service to help save souls and serve humanity in the name of Jesus. “I’m not going to be shy or bashful about it,” he said. “We need those who God is calling to step forward!”

Many people responded and knelt at the mercy seat in prayer.

As the Reflectors of Holiness session exited the hall and amid great fanfare, it was clear that they were ready to take on their new responsibilities to serve God in the name of Jesus Christ.