I’ve enjoyed in recent months reading the writings of Captain Andrew Clark of Pill corps, as he seeks to lead his corps “Back to the Future”. In common with a growing number of officers around the Army world, he is seeking the principles, and often the practices, of the early Army that made it so powerful a force for the kingdom of God.
Perhaps in our sophisticated era, we have neglected at our peril some of the basic principles that our early leaders taught. Today we visited an elderly, housebound soldier (no. 2 on the roll). She described how she would sometimes go to work in her uniform, complete with bonnet, because she finished word at 6pm and the corps would be setting of at 6:15 for a meeting in another town. This caused much interest and some antagonism among the girls she worked with. She was proud to tell them of her Christian faith and standards. When asked how she knew what was right and what was wrong, she replied, “I never go anywhere where I can’t where my bonnet.”
A similar and equally simple principle is espoused in “Chosen to be a Soldier”, the sometimes maligned and often ignored O&R for Soldiers — that obedience to God and love for other people comes before personal pleasure or success. I’ve sometimes wished that I had been given more preparation for soldiership. I don’t remember being offered the O&R at the time. It’s simple but direct teaching makes clear some of the stranger language of my old-style articles of war.
The danger of rushing from one extreme to another is always present. Perhaps in our desire to mediate the perceived excesses of zeal in the early Army, and in our honesty of acknowledging that we are now “a church”, we have also rejected their warnings against blurring the boundaries with the world. Where this happens, we simply become another Christian club, with nothing to distinguish us from other churches, or even the local golf club. I’m sure this fuzziness is one reason why The Army has lost a whole generation of children of the regiment, and why recruitment has been so difficult. If we can get back to the higher standards of a holy life, without the legalism or self-righteousness that has plagued us in the recent past, we may see growth of the kingdom, and therefore of this Army that so many of us love.