Commissioning 2021 Wrap-Up
Messengers of Grace | Appointed to service
“Being a Messenger of Grace will be a mystery; it is so unlike the way the world presently operates.” —Commissioner Mark W. Tillsley
Commissioning Weekend 2021 kicked off on Friday, June 11 with a spirited morning Commencement service and a heartfelt Silver Star Luncheon at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) in Suffern, N.Y.
The 22 cadets of the Messengers of Grace session received their associate in applied science degrees, along with academic awards. Cadet Valentina Agudelo Cano earned valedictorian honors with a GPA of 3.99 over two years. Cadet Emily Betts was salutatorian with a GPA of 3.98.
The Bible Knowledge Achievement Award and Doctrine Knowledge Achievement Award both went to Cadet Renato Sarmiento Fernandez. Cadet Hyesoo Kim earned the Bible Knowledge Progress Award and Christopher Brown earned the Doctrine Knowledge Progress Award.
In her valedictory address, Cano referenced COVID-19 and the adjustments the cadets had to make at the CFOT. Commissioner Mark W. Tillsley, in his commencement address, said the pandemic, while difficult, provides a “tremendous opportunity” to reach a lost world.
“Our world needs messengers of grace,” said Tillsley, who is beginning a new appointment at the CFOT as the territorial theology and Christian ethics secretary. “It’s time for your generation to lead the charge.”
The Fellowship of Silver Star Luncheon that followed included tears of gratitude and gave cadets an opportunity to express their deep appreciation and love for parents, mentors, and significant others who supported them on their journey to officership.
Cadet Emily Betts, daughter of Majors James and Sue Betts, leaders of the New Jersey Division, shared how her parents taught her to remember three simple concepts in ministry: “Show up, love your people, and be holy.”
“The people sitting next to you have shaped you, they’ve influenced you, and in some cases, they’ve pushed you to be who you are today,” she said.
The Marie H. Sharp Endowment Award went to: Major JongWoo Kim, officer parent of Cadet Hyesoo Kim; Katy Yasodhora Ventura Valenzvela, soldier parent of Cadet Joel Monasterio; and Lidia Rodriquez, non–Salvationist parent of Cadet Jimenez Rodriguez.
Commissioner Sharon J. Tillsley, territorial personnel officer, shared anecdotes from her time as an officer and emphasized 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible’s love chapter, along with prayer, in a short devotional.
“Your prayers of faith, hope, and love are going to make an eternal difference,” she said. “Mirror God today and in the days to come … and don’t forget the prayers.”
On Friday night, the Commissioners Tillsley took part in a Q&A called “Hope Around The Salvation Army World.” The Tillsleys talked about their various overseas assignments.
Commissioner Mark Tillsley said his advice to officers heading overseas is not to try to change cultures to “our image.”
“We need to be prepared to enter into cultures for us to be the primary learners and really just embrace how God is working,” he said.
“We have a lot to learn from these countries as well and I would pray, more than anything else, that people would have it in their hearts, to want to serve.”
The evening closed with a concert by the New York Staff Band (NYSB) and Eastern Territory Staff Songsters. Lt. Colonel Kathleen J. Steele, Executive Officer of the NYSB, prayed that listeners would be “encouraged and uplifted by what you see and hear and get a great sense of the love that Christ has for each one of us.”
Bandmaster Derek Lance struck a similar note as the concert closed, saying, “May you carry renewed strength for tomorrow because of the great hope that is found in our Lord and Savior.”
In a video message on Saturday morning, Commissioners William A. and G. Lorraine Bamford, territorial commander and territorial president of Women’s Ministries, congratulated the Messengers of Grace on their ordination and encouraged everyone to pause and reflect on their own spiritual journey.
Commissioner Lorraine Bamford quoted Salvation Army officer and poet Shirley Pavey to highlight the purpose of “Together with One Accord” the Salvation Army’s vision launch.
“It is His responsibility to spark the flame, and ours to be willing to be lit,” said Commissioner Lorraine. “In this unity of purpose, we all submit to the One who sparks the flame and lights the deepest darkness.”
Commissioner William Bamford lauded the Salvationists who have prayed for the five vision imperatives (Engaging, Encouraging, Equipping, Empowering, and Expecting). “This is a flame that has been fueled by a common purpose: to see God more mightily in our territory,” he said.
Commissioners Mark and Sharon Tillsley hosted an interactive online Bible study on the book of Hebrews, chapter 10. Those scriptures touched upon the theme of the day, which was “Hope Achieved.”
“In Hebrews, Chapter 10, verse 25, the Bible reads, ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another,’ said Commissioner Mark Tillsley. “One another are the key words. It’s not just the corps officer sharing the teaching, but there is health when others are involved in leadership and are taking new roles in the Church.”
During the Q&A interaction, a listener asked how one should promote that type of openness and vulnerability. “I ask myself that question as well,” said Commissioner Sharon. “You have to work your way up to it and be among people you trust and who trust you. This is an age of distrust, because people take trust, turn it around, and abuse it. As Christians, we need to be much different than that.”
The “To The Point Talks” provided a virtual platform for Salvationists who are also experts in various disciplines to discuss important topics such as: social and racial justice, effective discipleship, creative leadership, holy sexuality, holiness, and avoiding burnout.
Each speaker or panel was joined by a Salvation Army officer who served as moderator. After each talk, the speakers invited viewers to engage in a live online Q&A interaction.
The evening concluded with “Hope Unraveled” a presentation by MOVE Dance Company, followed by worship with UNBOUND.
On Sunday morning, triumphant music from the NYSB and the Eastern Territory Staff Songsters set the tone for the ordination, commissioning, and appointment service.
Following a heartfelt and respectful memorial video that honored Salvation Army officers promoted to Glory, Commissioner William Bamford at Centennial Memorial Temple (CMT) in New York City welcomed his audience. “Over many decades, this location has been a place of worship and transformation,” he said. “We believe today is no different.”
Bamford welcomed families and friends of the Messengers of Grace via livestream and in person to the event that was part live, part prerecorded, and part virtual. “This still is not our usual way of gathering,” he said. “This still is not our usual day of commissioning and ordination, but we are grateful for the gift of technology and for the easing of restrictions that allow us to be joined together today here in this place and across the Eastern Territory.”
Commissioner G. Lorraine Bamford, who on occasion addressed the audience in Spanish, led the congregational singing. Colonel Phillip J. Maxwell, chief secretary, led the session and their recitation of the 11 affirmations of faith. The Eastern Territory Staff Songsters offered a lively musical selection entitled, “Humbly Bow.”
Lt. Colonel James LaBossiere, training college principal, presented the Messengers of Grace who stood, socially distanced in pews, on the first floor of the CMT. “A great deal has been said about the impact the COVID–19 pandemic” he said. “Certainly, we have experienced our share of that in this journey. There have been personal and corporate impacts that we have faced in the cadets and faculty alike. But this group of cadets have responded in faith to those challenges. They have stayed the course and have flourished in their faithful response to Christ.”
The territorial leaders led the solemn and at times tearful ordination and commissioning presentation, which concluded with a rousing and enthusiastic applause by family and friends in the CMT balcony.
Commissioner Mark Tillsley brought a stirring and insightful message. “Being a Messenger of Grace will be a mystery; it is so unlike the way the world presently operates,” he warned. He concluded by saying, “My prayer this morning, more than anything else, is that God would baptize you with love for His people; this wonderful gift, this blessing of holiness, this entire sanctification that goes beyond your personal piety but has purpose for the sake of your people.”
Lieutenant Arren D. Boyd, session representative speaker, said, “We need to rise up and fulfill the calling that God has placed on our lives. I’m not just talking to the Messengers of Grace; I’m talking to everybody here and everybody watching on livestream. God has a plan, and He has a purpose for our lives. We need to rise up as a Salvation Army— together with one accord!”
Commissioner William Bamford presented the Commissioners Award to Lieutenant Joel E. Monasterio in recognition of his academic leadership, attitude, field work, and spiritual influence.
The most awaited moment came when the Commissioners Bamford announced each lieutenant’s first appointment.
The NYSB concluded the morning service with a powerful arrangement of “In Christ Alone.”
—Robert Mitchell, Hugo Bravo, and Warren L. Maye contributed to this article.