The Times they are a-changin’

By Nick Coke

This article first appeared in the January-February 2017 edition of ‘The Officer’ magazine and is re-published with permission. 

Bob Dylan is my hero. There, I’ve gone and said it! Some might laugh at the suggestion, others cringe and perhaps there are even those who wonder who on earth he is. Let me help you understand.

Bob Dylan is an American singer and songwriter, born Robert Zimmerman in Minnesota in 1941. Rising to prominence as a folk singer, he is accredited as a pioneer of the 1960s counterculture and the voice of a generation. His early songs accompanied the civil rights movement, and he even shared a stage with Martin Luther King on the day the Rev King delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech in 1963.

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‘Marching Towards Justice’ translated into Spanish

We’re delighted to announce that Marching Towards Justice (Marchando Hacia La Justicia) is now available in Spanish. It can be downloaded for free here on The Centre of Theology and Community website. Thanks to our friends in The Salvation Army USA Eastern territory for their support!

More Room in the Inn!

By Major Nick Coke

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Look at this photo. What do you see? It’s a typical Christmas scene – The Salvation Army band out carolling. ‘It’s not Christmas until I’ve heard the Salvation Army band’, I can almost hear someone say. It looks a little chilly but even from this distance I can sense that warm, fuzzy feeling inside as the music rises and falls in my imagination. Strangely comforting, hopeful, beautiful.

Now take another look, but let’s turn the photo around. Same band, different perspective. This is not your usual carolling gig. This is a band playing carols for justice outside the Houses of Parliament. On this night they played for unaccompanied refugee children who remain stranded far from home.

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Standing nearby as the band played, I sensed the power of the Christmas story confronting a dark world in which children flee war and poverty only to be turned away. Together with 400 others from a wide spectrum of faith and civil society organizations we called on Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to ensure Britain plays its part in welcoming 1000 children to our shores. This year we’re up to 800, but surely we can make room for a few more this Christmas. There is room in the inn! There are those ready and willing to give shelter and a warm welcome.

Together we sang a few especially adapted carols, accompanied by the band. New words to favourite tunes – here’s one:

‘In the bleak midwinter
Far away from home;
Children sleep as refugees
Scared and alone;
Snow is falling, snow on snow
In the bleak mid-winter
Not that long ago.

The streets they cannot hold them
Nor makeshift camps sustain;
The fear is that they’ll flee away
While confusion reigns:
In this bleak mid-winter
No stable place will do
Each child needs a place of rest,
Just like me and you.

What can we give them,
Civilians as we are?
If I were an MP
I would write a law;
If I were prime minister
I would do my part;
Yet what we can we give them –
A welcome from the heart.’

Here’s a thought. Why not use these words at a carol service this Sunday? And as you do, consider what you can do to help unaccompanied refugee children. Restart The Rescue Christmas Carols can be downloaded by clicking the link and a petition signed here

Us Together: Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life.

Guest post by Cadet Lottie Milner

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Last July, as a young adult member of The Salvation Army Corps in Stepney, I was invited to take part in a BBC Radio 4 recorded discussion, marking the launch into the Citizens UK Commission into Islam, Participation and Public Life.  Gathered together in a room in the East London Mosque were a group of young people from different backgrounds, responding to comments made by David Cameron in his speech about extremism, and discussing the young British Muslim identity.  I heard a cry of pain graciously articulated amongst those present that I had not fully recognised before. My eyes were opened for the first time to how multi-faceted the issues facing British Muslims are. We could never have imagined the situation that we see now, a year later.

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#LoveLondon. #NoPlaceforHate.

Salvationists from 9 corps across London joined with friends and neighbours in a powerful act of solidarity in anxious times. Here’s a reflection from someone who took part.

Guest post by Lieutenant Lee Raggett

annetteYesterday London Citizens joined together to stand outside 30 stations across London to change a dark narrative that has been stirring in the city. Some say it’s a result of the ‘leave’ decision – others say that it’s been there all along. We stood because we believe in a different story!

I stood because my friend A was told to ‘f off back to Poland’ – she’s German and she works hard helping mums to be and sitting with new mums through difficult early days of parenting. I stood because I heard the British-African lady crying into her phone in fear of hatred. I stood because I saw the young Polish mum take abuse at the checkout. I couldn’t change her attackers hatred but I could show her love. I stood because I believe that in the end love is stronger than hate.

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Five Ways to Live Post-Brexit

by Nick Coke and John Clifton

Let’s get a few things straight from the outset.

One of us voted in, the other out. Neither of us are racist, nor are we members of a sneering elite. We’re not interested in blame, counter-blame or accusation. We agree on this: neither remaining in nor leaving the EU is the answer to all the questions that the people of the UK are asking.

We both live in London although we’re not from London. One of us grew up in the post-industrial north of England, the other in various countries around the world. We have both spent years investing in people at all levels of society because that’s what Salvation Army officers are called to do. We both love Jesus and try to follow him. We both love politics and get involved where we are.

Whilst we voted differently we share a vision of what’s next in a post-Brexit Britain. It is not theory. We know it works because we’ve done it, experienced it, seen people empowered by it, tasted God’s kingdom in it and seen communities changed by it. We describe it here as a picture of hope.

And, of course, hope is an action.

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I can’t stay silent

Guest Post by Captain Emma Scott

fingerprint-649818“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Deitrich Bonhoeffer

A week on from the Orlando shooting, in a bar where people who identify as being part of the LGBTQI community, having tweeted, retweeted, facebooked and commented on Facebook I find myself unable to not say more.

Last week Nick Coke posted about social justice, what it is and why we should be involved in it. Having read this article before I think I had not previously registered the quote he makes “We don’t do social justice – we live justly.” And yet I find myself asking whether this really is the case? Do I live my life as if justice is the only way to go? From an early age I have been fascinated by justice and equality and as an adult this has only deepened. My heart physically hurt last week as I heard about the shootings in Orlando and yet as I began reading social media it only set about causing more pain because my friends, people I love, felt unheard, they felt unrepresented in the reporting and they felt alone. What pained me even more was that my friends who are part of my faith and church felt this way too. BBC Newsbeat posted an article by Amelia Butterfly who wrote that Dr Paul Colton the “Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross…says when many religious people do not “include LGBT people” in daily life, “prayers are shallow”.

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