Monday, 8 October 2012

Booth on Neo-Monasticism!

So, I mentioned this the other day....Booth's vision of a neo-monastic movement within the Salvation Army.  To be honest, I think it would have been better had it been a real vision of what the Army was to be about...It is a piece very much in SA parlance, but anyway, it makes for fascinating reading and speaks very much into how I sense the calling of God upon my life, either with our out-with the Army, wherever I may be.  Its a clear vision of a neo-monastic rhythm in the great Salvo tradition.   It deserves wide reading.

Maybe its time it came about.

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Do not limit the possibilities of the future. God has many ways of fulfilling His purposes towards the sons and daughters of men. Here is one, of which I dreamed a dream. The one I am going to mention came to me when thoughtfully wondering, as I so often do, what The Salvation Army of the coming years was likely to be.

In this vision I beheld many things that were novel and fascinating, but nothing that took greater hold of me at the moment than the one I am about to describe. Perhaps the superior interest it excited in my feelings arose out of its intense practicality. It seemed all so natural, so possible, so fruitful, and the results so desirable, that I came almost to feel that the thing was not a dream, but an actual occurrence, literally happening before my eyes.

I thought I was looking at The Salvation Army in its varied future operations, and while I looked I thought I saw a new body of Officers suddenly start into existence. In many respects they strongly resembled the comrades with whom I am familiar to day. In other respects they appeared strangely dissimilar.
I will try to describe them, and while I do so you will be able to judge of the probable usefulness or otherwise of such a class, the possibility of creating it, and whether you would or would not like to belong to it, if it were created.

As I looked at this new people, they appeared to manifest extraordinary signs of earnestness, self-denial, and singleness of purpose; indeed, they had every appearance of being a reckless, daredevil set. On inquiry, I found that they described themselves as “Brothers of Salvation” or “Companions of the Cross of Christ.” They went forth, two and two, strengthening each other’s hands, and comforting each other’s hearts in all the work they had to do, and all the trials they had to bear. They seemed to welcome privations, and to revel in hardships, counting it all joy when they fell into diverse persecutions, and facing opposition and difficulties with meekness, patience, and love.

As I looked, and looked, I wondered more and more, for I observed that they had voluntarily embraced the old-fashioned vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience. These vows I observed, further, were regarded as only binding upon them for a term of years, with the option of renewal for a further term at the expiration of that period, or of being able at that time to honourably return to the ordinary ranks of Officership.
As I looked at these new comrades, who had as it were suddenly sprung out of the ground, I saw that they wore a novel kind of uniform of simple shape, but very pronounced, and displaying very prominently the insignia of The Salvation Army. They were evidently proud of their colours.

And then I saw another thing that was peculiar about this new Order – I do not know how else to speak of it. I saw that they refused to accept any money or gifts for themselves, or for their friends, or, at most, not more than was necessary to meet the very humble wants of that particular day; while I saw that they were pledged not to own any goods of any kind, save and except the clothes they wore.

And then I saw that they were great wanderers, continually travelling from place to place, and that very much on foot, as this gave them the opportunity of visiting the hamlets, cottages, farmhouses, and mansions on the way, and speaking to the people in the streets, market squares, or other open spaces on week-days as well as on Sundays, as they passed along.

I saw that they assisted at the services in The Salvation Halls wherever they came, always working in friendly co-operation with the Officers in Command; visiting the Soldiers, sick or well; hunting up backsliders, and striving to promote the interests of every Corps they visited, to the utmost of their ability.

I saw that they visited and prayed with the people from door to door, in the great cities as well as in the villages; talked to them in the streets, trains, or wherever they had opportunity, about death, judgment, eternity, repentance, Christ, and salvation.

I saw them in my dream addressing the workmen at the dock gates, at the entrances to public works, in the factories at meal hours; indeed, they were talking, praying, and singing with whomsoever they could get to listen to them, singly, or in company wherever they came.

And as I looked, I saw their number, which was very, very small at first, gradually increase until they reached quite a multitude. And the educated and well-to-do, charmed with this simple Christ like life, swelled its numbers, coming from the universities and the money­making institutions and other high places.
Do you ask me about their support? Oh! I answer, so far as I could find out in my dream, they never lacked any really necessary thing, having all the time what was above all and beyond all in worth and desirability – the abundant smile of God, and a great harvest of precious souls.

(International Staff Council Addresses 1904, General William Booth, p144-147)

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