From Salvationist 12 October 2019
LET me take you down, ‘cause we’re going to Strawberry Field in this week’s Salvationist. The site of the former Salvation Army children’s home – which inspired the timeless Beatles song – has opened its iconic gates once more, and the work that’s going on there is as inspiring today as it was yesterday.
After a long and winding road of redevelopment, the site is now the home of a stunning centre with an exhibition detailing its history and Army connections, as well as John Lennon’s songwriting process. There may not be a helter-skelter but there is a café and beautiful gardens with space for reflection. Best of all, though, is that the site is supporting the Army’s Steps to Work scheme, which helps young people with learning difficulties and other barriers to work get valuable experience and support.
On pages 12 and 13, we get a taste of the work that’s gone into this pioneering project, as well as the Army’s plans to plant a fresh expression of church in the community. On page 14 an interview with Mike, one of the first Steps to Work participants, emphasises how much impact Strawberry Field is already having upon young people in the area.
Mike says it makes him the person he wants to be, adding that he feels ‘like part of a team’. Getting by with a little help from our friends can be a huge blessing. A day in the life of part-time prison chaplain Major Carl Huggins highlights how simply sitting and listening to someone’s problems can provide much-needed support. On page 15, we hear how a blessing for a woman and her dog at one corps seemed like a small gesture of help, but also made a meaningful difference.
‘Living is easy with eyes closed,/ Misunderstanding all you see,’ wrote John Lennon in ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, but we are called to live with eyes open – to seek understanding and look for ways we can show God’s love in a situation, and not just let it be. Major Paul Robinson on page 19 encourages us to open our ears as well, as we get back to God’s presence and listen, before putting his message into action – whether through prayer, music or our own particular talents.
Singing can be a great way to have an impact, as is evident by the universal reach of the Beatles’ message that ‘All You Need Is Love’. Sunderland Millfield Songsters (featured on page 9) have been sharing a similar musical message for 100 years. Their repertoire may not include ‘Hey Jude’ or ‘Back In The USSR’, but the title track of their new centenary album encourages us that ‘Now Is The Time’ for celebration – and you don’t need to be a member of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to access the source of their jubilation. That joyful love flows from me to you, and from you to others, by the Spirit, which is ready to work eight days a week through us, if we find the time to let it.
Being receptive to that influence, to sharing it with others, isn’t always the first thing on our cluttered, day-to-day minds, but the Strawberry Field gates are a visual reminder of the power of opening up. After all, each of us has a ticket to ride with our name on it – a ticket that has opened up the life gate to all of us, for ever.
From the Managing Editor,
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