Festive was the word to describe the mood that October evening in The Salvation Army’s historic Centennial Memorial Temple. There in the heart of Manhattan, a much-anticipated occasion entitled “Because of Him, We Worship Together” came to spectacular fruition.
Inspiring music by the New York Staff Band, harmonious singing from the Eastern Territory Staff Songsters, the serenity of Colonel Margaret Davis’ calming solo renditions, and heartfelt prayers offered in English, Korean, Spanish, Creole, Chinese, and American Sign Language made it clear that this all-inclusive celebration came about “Because of Him.”
Because of Him, we worship
It would have been easy to assume that the focus of the meeting would be on Commissioners William A. and G. Lorraine Bamford, territorial leaders. That same night they were honored for rendering 34 years and six months of officership in the territory. With their retirement from active service on the horizon and civilian life gaining priority, it would be understandable for organizers of the evening to have simply called it a retirement service.
But the Commissioners Bamford intended that the event be about Christ’s love for everyone. The radiant faces of uniformed junior soldiers, who enthusiastically marched up the aisles and waved small Salvation Army flags in their hands, brought that idea to life. Singing companies from the Greater New York and New Jersey divisions also warmed hearts. Exuberant praise and worship, led by Captain Shean Bolton and accompanied by guitar and brass instrumentalists, filled the air. The Eastern Territory Staff Songsters, led by Song Leader Erik Jones, and the New York Staff Band, led by Bandmaster Derek W. Lance, performed several songs. And dressed in flowing red and black, the MOVE dancers also graced the stage and set a tone for praise and worship.
Because of Him, we serve
Video clips shown on massive screens and livestreamed around the world depicted the Bamfords’ life and ministry. Other videos offered greetings and salutations from Ambassadors of Christ sessionmates. Among those captured on video were soldiers, officers, Salvationists from various nations both young and old, and the General himself, the international leader of The Salvation Army.
“The Lord has honored your positive response to His will with open doors of opportunity,” said General Lyndon Buckingham. “Our Army is better and stronger because of your dedication and leadership. You will never know the impact of your personal witness and faithful ministry. We salute you for your evident devotion to Christ and the Army and thank God for the inspiration of your example.”
The General continued, “Commissioner William A. Bamford III, and Commissioner G. Lorraine Bamford, having each completed 34 years and six months’ warfare as officers of The Salvation Army, you are hereby honorably retired from active service on Dec. 31, 2023. By this certificate is recorded also the esteem and appreciation of your leaders, for your faithful and devoted laborers, for the glory of God and the salvation of the lost. May grace, mercy, and peace attend you.”
On behalf of the General, Lieutenant Esther Mobley, assistant corps officer of the Newburgh, N.Y., Corps, and member of the Reflectors of Holiness (2021–2023), the last session of cadets commissioned by the Bamfords, presented the framed retirement certificate to them, and then prayed. “Commissioners Bill and Lorraine, even though you are retired, I’m sure the Lord will continue to open doors of opportunity to you. Amen!”
Because of Him, we send
Commissioner Lorraine Bamford, who had learned to speak fluent Spanish during their service in South America, offered words of thanksgiving. The audience, a mix of English- and Spanish-speaking officers, soldiers, and friends, heard translation via earphone. Interpreters sitting in booths in the back of the temple toggled between Spanish and English as she spoke. Bamford said, “We thank you for being here, and I really hope you’re not here just for us, but that you happened to have witnessed our retirement ceremony in the middle of worship.” Fighting back tears, she continued, “We’ve been praying that would be true for each of us.”
Commissioner William Bamford sang rather than spoke his first words at the podium. “Jesus, thou art everything to me!” His voice stirred some in the audience to sing along with him. The lyrics came from a song of consecration written by British Salvationist Edward Henry Joy in 1871 in London, the place of Bamford’s ancestral roots. “The only reason I stand here today, is because of Jesus. It is because of Him that we’ve had a beautiful experience of ministry.” He continued by thanking his mother, children, grandchildren, officers, and friends for their unwavering support.
Commissioner Bamford also offered a special thanks to Colonel Wally Conrath, calling him the “Gentle Giant” who “instilled within me the idea that you have to look at everyone with a possibility of rendering service for Jesus.”
The meeting ended with great fanfare and energy as everyone sang “I’ll Go in the Strength of the Lord.” Commissioner Bamford took center stage to wave a large Salvation Army flag, its red, yellow, and blue colors vibrant under the spotlight.