Church Army to be ‘provocative’, says Chief Executive, Mark Russell
In an opening talk and overview of Church Army’s work last week at a special event held in the Jethro Centre, Lurgan, Co. Armagh, the organisation’s Chief Executive, Mark Russell, said he saw Church Army as “a provocative organisation”, both in calling the Church to mission and in drawing people to ask about God.
He described Church Army as “a movement of mission” and, in a separate interview with the Gazette editor (details below), explained that over the past year it had become a “mission order”, a community which people could join wherever they were.
Mr Russell also said that, over the next year, Church Army would be creating resources “to help clergy and parishes do evangelism better”.
In terms of donations to the work of Church Army, the Chief Executive said that under 10% was spent on administration which, he pointed out, “makes us one of the most efficient charities in the country”.
In 1882, when he was on the staff of St Mary Abbots Church in London’s Kensington High Street, Wilson Carlile established the Church Army, now known more simply as Church Army.
He was convinced of the importance of ‘word and action’, and went on to resign his curacy to work full-time in slum missions. There could hardly have been a greater contrast between the parish in a fashionable quarter of London and the most deprived urban streets. While Carlile at first was not widely accepted by figures in the establishment, not least because of his open-air preaching, by 1925 his organisation had become the Church of England’s largest home mission society.
Church Army today has some 500 Evangelists in Ireland and Britain. Their work is rightly admired because they reach so many people, in particular the ‘unchurched’, or perhaps nowadays the ‘never-churched’, and convey to them a real sense of God’s love for every person. The Evangelists go about this in a host of different ways, each bringing his or her own particular skills and interests to the cause of mission.
Speaking at Lurgan’s Jethro Centre last week (report, page 1), Church Army Chief Executive, Mark Russell, among the many insights that he conveyed, described mission in terms of the harvest: seed is planted, but the result takes time. Mr Russell gave the example of one elderly man who, with no family or close relatives, had been advised by his solicitor to leave his considerable estate to a charity. The man did not have a favourite charity, and it was only when he searched his memory, going back 80 years or so, that he remembered how Church Army had cared for him at a time when he had been a destitute young teenager. The result was not only a valuable legacy for Church Army but also a real awakening in that elderly man of faith and a real love for God.
Church Army is about Christian care in action, so that individuals may recognise the love of God and themselves return that love. What is more, Church Army today, under the dynamic leadership of Co. Armagh man, Mark Russell, is developing its work in striking ways to meet the needs of our time.
It is good to celebrate and to say ‘thank you’ – and that is precisely what Church Army did last week in Lurgan. Yet, every member of the Church of Ireland can rightly return that sense of gratitude. We can all say ‘thank you’ to Church Army.
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