Salvation Army corps from Asbury Park, Red Bank, and Ocean County in New Jersey gathered last fall for a combined praise meeting, but it was hardly the first time.
“We get together four or five times a year for various events,” says Major Josh Lyle, the corps officer in Asbury Park. “We’re so close to each other, maybe 15 or 20 minutes. We’re in the same county as Red Bank, so we share a lot of services. I think every corps has something a little different.”
About 30 miles as the crow flies separate the Red Bank and Ocean County corps along the Jersey Shore, with Asbury Park in between. They call the combined meetings the “Shore Corps,” and the next one is Feb. 11, following Asbury Park’s corps retreat featuring guest speakers Colonels Janet and Richard Munn.
The corps also regularly converge for combined services on Good Friday and Memorial Day at Monmouth Memorial Park, which includes a Salvation Army section like Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y. The three corps sometimes join each other to simply praise and worship, as they did last fall.
Everyone will also be together on Sept. 8 for Salvation Army Day at the Grand Auditorium in Ocean Grove, N.J. The event normally draws 700 to 1,000 people. This year it will feature Commissioners Ralph and Susan Bukiewicz, the new territorial commanders, along with the prestigious New York Staff Band.
Several years ago, Lyle says, the corps officers in the area would unite for fellowship and Bible study, and the combined meetings have happened for perhaps the last 20 or 30 years. The meetings help the corps not feel so isolated and allow everyone to coordinate services.
Sometimes the corps in Perth Amboy and Atlantic City join the festivities too, Lyle says.
“That used to be the Army way,” Lyle says. “It used to be a standard of what happened. I remember as a kid, corps getting together to do things, and I don’t think we want to let some of that go. We support each other when things happen, and we also want to get our corps together to worship.”
With the Retired Officers Apartments located in Asbury Park, Lyle says, the three corps are close enough for some retirees to attend his church, while others may attend a men’s prayer breakfast or a women’s group at one of the other churches.
“Retired officers coming into the area have three corps that are distinctly a little different,” Lyle says. “They have options. They have choices. We all kind of work together to do our thing.
“It’s not a competitive spirit. It’s just more of us working together to really meet the needs of the people in our congregations.”