19 July 2023

Recapping Together 2023: Close encounters of the holy kind

Ivan Radford

Ivan Radford offers a whistle-stop tour of Friday and Saturday at Together 2023.

Salvationists from across the territory gathered in Croydon for Together 2023.

The weekend challenged all present to consider what it means to be Wholly Holy and how to reflect holiness to others.

Friday and Sunday began reflectively, with prayers led by Territorial Prayer Network Co-ordinator Captain Gary Lacey. The groups prayed for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit and for the Reflectors of Holiness being commissioned on the Sunday.

On Friday, a prayer walk from Croydon Citadel to Fairfield Halls included prayers for the community and the Army’s ministry.

That night saw the first public performance of Belongings. The musical about people sheltering from a storm in a SATCoL shop brought the house down, reminding the audience that they all belong in Christ and encouraging them to think about how they show God’s love – a message echoed through the weekend by a pop-up charity shop.

Photo shows three cast members of 'Belongings' singing ernestly.

On Saturday morning, Salvationists ran 5k in a nearby park in the Big Stride Challenge. Despite blustery weather, sports ministry continued that afternoon in nearby Queen’s Gardens as Salvationists invited members of the public to join in games. This community festival also included muddy walks to reflect on caring for creation, while a Get OWT! gazebo offered children’s activities. Charlie Green, Zac, Salvation Brass and African Praise Fellowship Zimbabwe provided music. All the while, Army mascot Shieldy ran amok.

Inside, people were blessed by a concert from the ISB and ISS, as well as foyer concerts across the weekend from Thornton Heath Ukrainian Choir, Portsmouth Citadel Songsters, worship group Meraki, Bromley Temple Songsters and Staines Band, as well as Salvation Brass, who marched down the foyer stairs while playing with gusto.

Other highlights ranged from an art exhibition and prayer bureau to a workshop by MACA Dance and an SP&S shop with a donation point for the Uniform Take Back Scheme. A marketplace open all weekend and Spotlight Talks on Saturday introduced attendees to a range of departments, teams and resources. Secretary for Mission Lieut-Colonel Drew McCombe led a respectful focus group that considered membership and belonging.

On Saturday night, Colonels Paul and Jenine Main (THQ) joined a live recording of The All Terrain Podcast, honestly sharing experiences of facing change and suffering.

Amid the busyness, Salvationists didn’t lose sight of the Wholly Holy theme, with Lieutenant Liam Beattie (Leicester West) and Harum Yu (New Malden) leading a challenging Bible study on 1 Peter 1:15 and 16.

Photos shows scenes from the Together 2023 community festival. The first shows Charlie Green joining Zac as he performs on guitar. The second shoes Salvation Army mascot Shieldy standing with arms outstretched.

Saturday worship – themed Encountering the Holy and presented by Lieutenants Emily and Joel Watson (Teddington and Twickenham) – reinforced that focus. Through worship led by Meraki, a multilingual Bible reading from John 7:25 to 41 and a refugee’s moving testimony, everyone present was reminded that, as we reflect God’s holiness, we can encounter the Holy through each other.

In his message, Territorial Commander Commissioner Anthony Cotterill called everyone to have a ‘close encounter of the fourth kind’ – not just a face-to-face encounter with God but an indwelling of his Spirit, becoming Wholly Holy and being wholly available to him.

Written by

A photo of Ivan Radford.

Ivan Radford

Managing Editor

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