Connect to Mission
This message was written for a women officers’ retreat a few years ago by Lt. Colonel Janice Buchanan. Lt. Colonel Janice Buchanan was one of the USA West’s bright lights and forward thinkers. She was Promoted to Glory several years ago, but leaves a great spiritual heritage that is alive in many of us – in whose lives she invested.
Perhaps her message will give you some perspective as you consider women in ministry and ministry for women in The Salvation Army? How can we reach women for Christ in our new day?
A Historical Perspective
Trace the Army’s outreach ministry to women from the Victorian era to the current post-modern age.
I’d like to introduce you to an 'acquired ancestor'—a woman Salvationist from the last turn of the century. I don’t know who she is but she is obviously one of us!
I found her in an antique store in Santa Cruz, California. I couldn’t afford her, so I left her on the wall and walked out of the store. But the guilt of abandoning her stayed with me and haunted me, over and over again.
What if someone bought the hand painted photo just for the frame and threw the photograph away? What a shame that would be and it would be my fault for not buying her. But she isn’t my relative, why should I care?, the inner dialogue of my mind would answer in return.
A year later I went back to the same antique store and she was still there—reduced in price but still expensive. I bought her just so I could finally have a peace of mind about her, and hung her on the wall of my office. “She looks very like my husband’s father’s mother,” I would explain to all who asked. I’ve named her after Grandmother Lucy Maude.
I don’t know if this has occurred to you yet, but a hundred years from now, someone may buy a photograph of you or me—depicting a woman Salvationist from the turn of the 21st Century! And he or she may wonder at the heritage we will have left behind. I hope it will be something of value.
But before we talk about us let’s take a look at Salvationist Lucy Maude’s world 100 years ago, just as the Victorian era was ending; especially as it relates to The Salvation Army’s Women’s Ministries Outreach efforts.
Women’s Ministries - Early 1900’s
The idea of the Home League first originated in England with Mrs. General Bramwell (Florence) Booth, in response to the great need of women who lived in the crowded city tenement houses, which were large, often dilapidated buildings divided into rental apartments.
Families were large, with children playing and even living on the streets. Many children were orphaned. Many died young, diseased, and living in squalor. In those days, women could be street sellers, or house servants: cooks, housekeepers, nannies—but mostly, they stayed at home to try and keep the family together as best they could.
Mrs. General Edward Higgins was responsible for organizing the first official meeting in Leytonstone, England in 1907. Programs were simple, consisting of nutritional and child rearing lectures, devotional worship sessions and a time of fellowship around the Army cup of tea! The programs were simple, but they were well attended. Women from every city area were able to easily get to the Army once a week on the designated day, at the designated time.
What is most significant about the Army’s ministry to women is: The Salvation Army’s women’s meetings were not limited to its members, as most churches of that time.
Membership was offered to women of sixteen years of age and over, whether married or single, saved or unsaved, churched or unchurched, Salvationist or non-Salvationist, without respect to race or creed.
From its inception Women’s Ministries has always been an outreach program with its aims being:
- Win women & husbands to Christ
- Promote a purposeful life
- Work toward the betterment of the home, community, the nation
- Link people to the fellowship of believers
Transition: The Women’s Ministries program followed these aims & its simple basic format, pretty much without fanfare or complication until the world was impacted by WWII
Women’s Ministries - WWII 1939-1945
World War II, between the years of 1939-1945, was the most devastating war in human history. It involved entire world-wide human and economic resources.
Women took up the men’s work in fields and factories. They became office workers, teachers, & provided postal services. They changed their clothing to meet the practical demands of work and to conserve precious money for greater needs. They changed their lives—forever!
Women’s Ministries - post war
Technology provided washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, television, and leisure time. And women stayed on in the workplace! Interestingly, as the women of post war days changed—WOMEN’S MINISTRIES BEGAN TO CHANGE TOO!
Attendance at Home Leagues in the USA, began to take a National nose dive! Modern societal changes were competing for women’s time and attention. As the war ended and we inched into the decade of the 50’s:
A National Home League Standard of Achievement was developed. “Good standards are what we need,” the Women’s Commission declared—“Guidelines to insure quality four-fold balanced programs of worship, education, fellowship, and service. These strong elements will attract the woman of today.
And so, a corset of goals and objectives were laced firmly around the Home League program—to shore it up, to keep it firm and steady—to keep it together. Everyone agreed, it was a good plan. Secondly, Home League contests were launched, pitching league against league to create interest and a competitive spirit. Prizes were offered to the winners—1st, 2nd, 3rd, Good, Better, and Best. Fortunately, & unfortunately this new emphasis worked and attendance figures once again took a climb.
Transition: But by the end of the 70’s the Home League Standard of Achievement was starting to sag. After all, it had been 20 years since there had been any significant changes:
So, somewhere between 1979 & 1980, the Home League National Goals Award program was launched. (In America) This time corps were awarded plaques and brass bars for winners of all five goals. And later, achievement seal incentives were added for those who achieved any one of the five goals.
The old Standard of Achievement was spruced up & new goals were added. New contests were launched. It had all worked before and it would work again. The Home League corset was cinched up again—even tighter than before. It was interesting to note that the Home League Aims—the Fundamental Purposes were not even mentioned as a part of the National Goals Program. The emphasis on program and competition represented by the corset had squeezed out their focus. After all, it was assumed that the fundamental purposes were clearly understood as the underlying focus of the program. Besides, spiritual results were hard to evaluate and even worse it seemed somewhat irreverent to offer awards for their accomplishment. It was thought that it would be better to leave them out of the goals award system.
Transition: Guess what? I just thought I’d mention that another 20 years passed! And here we were on the verge of a new century, in what is called the Post-Modern Age. It was time for another major change in the Women’s Ministries program.
As a matter of fact, change was occurring during that time in American and the Territories influenced by Western Culture:
- Women’s Outreach Ministries were launched
- Home League came under the umbrella name of Women’s Ministries
- Local corps initiated Women’s Ministries goals being encouraged to augment the National Goals— these, helpful as they were, added to the burden of the National Goals and pulled the corset strings even tighter
Women’s Ministries - Post-Modern Age - 21st Century
Let’s take a look at post-modern women: Going from street sellers & house servants of the Victorian Era to field and factory workers - office workers, teachers - Post-modern women are now free to be just about anything they want to be: Post-modern women lead complex lives. Their lives are as diverse as men have always been. It is no longer possible to hold one simple Women’s Ministries meeting on one designated day and time to meet their needs. IT’S TIME FOR A NEW WAY FORWARD IN WOMEN’S MINISTRIES.
I think even old Lucy Maude would rejoice and play her timbrel if she could. Because the new way forward is a renewed focus on winning women to Christ!