On Sunday, 3 April 2011, the Montgomery County (Maryland) Corps of the Salvation Army celebrated 25 years of worship and service. Special guests for the event included the National Capital Band (Bandmaster Dr. Steve Kellner), Major James Allison (General Secretary, National Capital and Virginia Division), and former Montgomery County corps officers Major Earl Fitzgerald and Captains Melvin and Dianne Welch.
Following an excellent cooked-to-order pancake breakfast in the Corps fellowship hall, the celebration proper began with the National Capital Band providing a musical prelude as a photo montage showing the history of the corps was presented. Major Tina McBride, corps officer, gave a welcome and introductions. This was followed by comments from two community representatives. First was Mr. Al Blocker, the chairman of the corps Advisory Board. Next was the chaplain from the Germantown Volunteer Fire Department. The corps and the fire department have worked together on several initiatives since the corps moved to its present location, which is directly across the street from the fire station.
The Montgomery County praise team led a rousing, enthusiastic time of praise and worship, followed by a prayer given by Captain Melvin Welch, a former corps officer at this corps. One of the young people from the corps gave a report on the recently-concluded Youth Councils, which was followed by an ebullient selection from the small, but energetic, Montgomery County Corps Band, under the direction of Bandmaster David Delaney.
Following a congregational song, several persons associated with the corps over the years gave short memoirs. First up was Florence Kuria, long-time member and bookkeeper at the corps. Next was Danielle (Costello) Delaney, who recounted how her family, in a somewhat desperate condition, was invited to the corps by the first corps officers, then-Lieutenants Brack and Annette Dodd. At that time, the corps building was an old frame house near the railroad tracks in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Danielle’s testimony of the change made by this invitation in the life of her and the others in her family was powerful and moving. Captain Dianne Welch also gave a memoir of her time as a corps officer in Montgomery County.
The National Capital Band presented William Broughton’s big-band style Deep River as the offertory. This was followed by a dramatic presentation entitled Walk the Line, written and performed by the youth of the corps, which was originally presented at Youth Councils. Following a congregational song and responsive Scripture reading, Major Earl Fitzgerald, another former corps officer, set the mood for the message of the morning by singing His Grace Still Amazes Me.
The message was given by Major James Allison. He built on the themes expressed in Danielle Delaney’s memoir. In his “down-home”, South Carolina accented style, he skillfully expounded Gospel truth. As the invitation to the altar was given, the band played Eric Ball’s masterful meditation Serenity, during which several people knelt at the altar – a response with which the composer would have been well-pleased.
The presence of seekers at the altar heightened the excitement of the celebration, which was allowed to burst forth as the morning concluded with the congregation and band joining in the song medley Army on the March. Arranged by Bandmaster Kellner, this item contains several “old school” Salvation Army songs, with arrangements taken from several classic marches such as The Invincible Army (Erik Leidzén), Kinshasa (Leslie Condon), and finishing with “On We March with the Blood and the Fire” from Harrow Citadel (A. S. Raikes), with the corps flag being marched around the hall as the congregation sang.
Following some closing remarks and a benediction by Major Steve Morris, Area Commander for the Washington, DC Metro Area, the band sent the happy congregation home to the strains of The Risen Savior (Paul Kellner), with its timeless reminder that “He Lives!”.