Friday, May 08, 2009


Those of us who read Scripture often assume this passage from Romans talks about the “culture” outside of our faith community…our ekklesia…our Corps. I wonder how much it can also be applied to the very culture of our tribe.

Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking... The Message

• This son of the regiment is becoming increasingly troubled by our excessive use of Christianese and the tendency to retreat into our Salvationist culture bubble.

• This CSM is finding it hard to cope with our love of the acronym…IHQ, THQ, DHQ, ISB, YPSM….and occasionally toys with the idea that some of those letters represent anachronism as much as acronym. Why do we have to talk in riddles?

• This uniform wearing Salvationist is struggling with the weekly donning of the blue serge..

I don’t have a problem with being visually identified with The Salvation Army. In fact, I’m glad to be so, but I’m not a great fan of the particular FORM of uniform we’ve worn since the early ‘70s or thereabouts.

I’m no longer convinced that the uniform in it’s present form is broadly recognized by society at large....

Many folks seem not to be able to distinguish it – particularly when we are wearing white shirts- from any number of similar uniforms. Security staff, Airline or Parking attendants etc.

White shirts aren’t always that slimming!

I find serge heavy & uncomfortable

Sundays are the only day of the week I have to wear a tie

Somehow our buttoned-down starched uniforms don’t speak to me of this radical Army of Salvation

I’m a big fan of The Salvation Army’s Red Shield logo, and would rather see that employed more readily as part of our uniform

Yet…..I am a Salvationist…probably to the core…inspired by the words of William Booth when he said “I’ll Fight”…but first, and most importantly I’m trying hard to be a follower of The Way of Jesus.
Love God, Love Others


headphonaught said...

Good post JL... on the same page with you on this.

Never did consider that verse in the way you have... but it makes sense to me.

Keep going, bro.


Johnny said...


I've just realized that I left off the opening sentence to the section on this post about uniform.

It should have started:

"I don’t have a problem with being visually identified with The Salvation Army. In fact, I’m glad to be so, but I’m not a great fan of the particular FORM of uniform we’ve worn since the early ‘70s or thereabouts."

Hope this doesn't affect your response. :-)


matthewjingram said...

Great thoughts J, I find myself agreeing with you, no problem with wearing A uniform, just not too keen on THE uniform!


Rob Reardon said...

I think I'm inclined to agree with your thoughts here. While I'm not a huge fan of the current (and out-dated) style of our uniform, it is what it is and when it's worn it should be worn with integrity.

Most of the time, I wear a jacket that has the shield sewn on the back. In fact, this jacket attracts much more attention than my uniform does. It IS identification.

Regarding my comments on the Rubicon about being confused for an airline pilot or bellhop, I referred to the confusion simply as an invitation to open doors of conversation, rather than highlight the confusion itself - if that makes any sense.

Johnny said...

Sure. That makes sense, Rob.

Really glad you passed by the blog.

J :-)

Anonymous said...

I recall my late Father-in-Law (John Evans) who had a 'thing' about the SA moving (in the 70's) to the open neck style of uniform (from the Stand-up Collar) and he said we all looked like bus conductors (!)(And that statement dates this comment) However, in time he became a 'bus conductor' like the rest of us!
Take a look at old films and it is clear that the Uniformed Salvo has ALWAYS looked like one of the other 'armed forces' (Police, Military, Bus Drivers etc). And no doubt opportunities came the way of those Salvationists, just as they do now - and they evangelised! God Bless us with grace to grasp similar opportunities. I still see the ocassional Lady wearing the 'Bonnet'. And even had members of the public say the ladies ought to go back to wearing it!! I DO NOT want to belong to some sort of a living Museum - like the 'Re-enactors' that perform the Civil War or the Romans v the Normans for the public. No thank you! The 'Jesus Army' (if you have seen them) wear a camouflage 'uniform'. I think it 'fits in' rather too well into the street scenes here in the UK. I don't recommend it for us. Let them do that if they wish. I think we have enough clothing available to us with bits of SA Logo (Red Shield) for us to evolve reasons to wear it. I speak as one who took off the uniform - when I was no longer fit to wear it. For reasons I explain here, several years later I put it back on after the Warrington Bombing.... At my suggestion we met as a Corps near the site of the Bomb - the great + good of the town came and joined us - 1 week on from the moment of the explosion. Warrington was in pain. An SA Officer suggested to the huge crowd before they dispersed that if they needed help in coming to terms with what had happened; needed someone to listen to them, to pray with them; there were 'people here in Uniform, or wearing a collar or a Habit, these are Christian people who will be willing and available to help you and to minister to you'. I was overwhelmingly convicted that I was now - as a Christian - invisible to the mass of people in need that day. I resolved, having already re-affirmed my commitment to the Lord Jesus some year or so before, that I would return to the uniform ranks of the SA. I'm once again a visible part of this Church. I should say that there is one SA Officer now serving who was happy for that period when I was un-uniformed. I greeted him, then sat next to him on his 1st ever visit to an SA meeting. When I joined him he was about to leave because he thought he was inappropriately dressed - not being in dark suit and white shirt! I told him I was part of the provisional, underground army and that it was ok to be there just as he was. Know when and where to wear it is often an important thing. I'd like our local leaders to become more adventurous in using some of the logo clothing we have available. All that said - I commend the total Biblical thrust of Johnny's blog - and the subsequent blog on the Rubi by Rob Reardon. Thanks for the stimulation and the thought process. As ever, we're on a learning curve. Bless you.

Anonymous said...

I am 'anon' at 6.49. I do NOT wish to be invisible (as you can tell if you read it! I hit the wrong buttons! Thanks. Rob

Heather's place said...


Thanks for the interesting take on Romans - a good point to make to those who have trouble thinking outside the Sally Army box.

I've just posted on the subject of uniforms here

I think Rob from Warrington (Hi Rob) clearly makes the point that there is a time and a place for uniform.

And if we think it's about being smart WE'VE MISSED THE POINT! (Sorry did I raise my voice then?)

(I should know how, but can't work out how to link back to this specific post - rather than the blog home page. Sorry to be dim.)

Johnny said...

Great response from Anonymous Rob! :-)))

Love you, mate!

...and Heather's picked up the theme on her blog.

(I've Twittered a link to it)

It's got some great pics on it...check it out folks

Appreciate all the feedback


wcs53 said...


Thanks for this and giving a different perspective on those verses from Romans. I really have major problems with our current uniform. I try to get away with wearing the formal one as much as I can and much prefer a black golf-style shirt with Red Shield.

I would agree with you that very few people outside of Army circles have any idea what the uniform is all about. I've had some interestingly disconcerting experiences whilst wearing mine - a guy from Iran, whom I was to represent in court, thought I was going to take him outside the courthouse and beat him up; a little Chinese kid on the subway in Toronto cowered under the seats when he saw the uniform; we never got the trust of many First Nations people in one of the places we were until we stopped wearing the formal uniform. I don't think it witnesses to anything other than it just makes us stand out like a sore thumb. It is a truly bizarre outfit, plus it is so non-practical, too expensive (to purchase and maintain), and lends itself to division and non-Scriptural hierarchies.

Thanks also for your follow on Twitter. I grew up in Orkney, so maybe you know some of my family members and that might be why my name sounds so familiar.


Nigel Coles said...

good insights Johnny and glad to glean a bit more on the inside of the SA

Alexander said...

I had a friend who decided to wear her uniform at every opportunity during the week, but refused to wear it for Sunday worship. It was a cringe against the pointless 'uniform only on Sundays' culture that see uniform as self-indulgent Sunday-best 'in-club' outfit.

I had another friend who gave up civvies for lent and wore uniform every day except on the weekly 'day off' Sunday!

Herb said...

I had an interesting experience in a coffee shop one morning - when someone asked me what security company I worked for. It was a cold slap up the side of the head to the fact that I, like many others, had become sloppy and wasn't wearing my cap. Without it, you're nothing more than a security guard! It is the one place on the uniform where the name and, the concept of "SALVATION" is displayed prominently (by prominently, I mean in your face). I've since corrected that problem and now I find a number of opportunities to engage people in a discussion about Salvation. My favourite quote, when someone asks me what the name means is..."for there is salvation in no other name, for there is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved, but the Lord Jesus Christ."

Ernie Simms said...

I wrote a book about how Nashville Berry Street corps began to experience Ekklesia in a practical way: Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible) about the innovative nature of open sharing and testimonies at Berry Street. Stephen Court wrote the Foreword for the book and War Cry USA called it: "Groundbreaking . . . a plea to awaken to the vibrant life and possibilities of a godly community." Check it out @