The last Saturday in March saw me travelling to Seda with Ilona, the Children’s Officer, to witness the enrolment of three new junior soldiers. For non-Salvation Army readers these are children who, having become Christians, decide to become junior members, making their own promise and wearing a special uniform. It is part of the genius of the founder of the Army, William Booth, that he embraced the idea that children should form their own, junior version, of the adult corps (church). In some parts of the world this original purpose of junior soldiership is not as marked as it used to be. In my day (!), for example, I belonged to the ‘Junior Corps’ and each Sunday we had a ‘Directory meeting’ and ‘Company meeting’ (don’t ask, it would take too long to explain!) What this did mean was that children got early training in leading songs, prayers and in leadership in general.
So we arrived at Seda. We met Arturs, Dacha (not sure if that’s the right spelling) and Erika who were to be made junior soldiers. Ilona had brought along the special junior soldier tee shirts and each of the prospective candidates were kitted out. In one of the side rooms, the promise cards were carefully laid out on the table ready to be signed. Moving easily from Latvian to Russian the children spoke and signed their promises, exactly the same promise that I had signed nearly 60 years ago, and we prayed together.
Then the celebrations began. One of the existing junior soldiers has recently started piano lessons, and played some music to open the worship, and another sat at the sound desk, sophisticated microphone in place, surrounded by a CD player, laptop, speaker and LCD projector, and ensured that music was played at the right time, the PowerPoint presentations were clearly visible and the sound for the participants was at the right level. Impressive! So, at the right moment, the CD was switched on, a Salvation Army band from, I know not where, played a rousing march, and in came the flag, held by another junior soldier, and behind it marched in proudly, with due pomp and circumstance, the three new junior soldiers, who greeted Sergejs, the officer, with the Salvation Army salute. It did not escape my notice that the theme tune featured in the march that the band played was ‘The World for God’, which gave added emphasis to the fact that this simple ceremony was exactly the same as could be witnessed all over the world where the Army operates and enrols junior soldiers.
As the meeting progressed, junior soldiers continued to feature prominently, playing guitars for the worship songs, and presenting the Word of God. I later discovered that a regular feature of a Saturday is a special worship service for junior soldiers in which they participate. It was great to see it. Children taking seriously their various responsibilities and being part of the life of the church. It really did put the lie to what I often hear and read that ‘children are the future of the church’. What I witnessed is that children can be, and, at Seda are, valuable participants and contributors in the life of the church.
The hens eggs? Lovely aren’t they, and fresh too. I particularly liked the blue ones. They are part of the ‘spoils’ which I collected at Seda, which also included five litres of Birch sap (Google it!) and a lovely bunch of tulips!