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I am very humbled to have been asked by Major Chris Pilgrim to help celebrate the advent of the Salvation Army Christmas 2016 Kettle Campaign.

The Salvation Army has been an institution in Guelph since 1884. I remember even as a kid donating to the campaign in downtown Guelph while awaiting a bus to take me home upon the completion of my Christmas Shopping. I saw this annual campaign through the eyes of a child sharing Christmas and honestly, I confess, not truly understanding what was being done.

For my family, however, the Salvation Army was personal and traditional. Over 100 years ago, my grandmother recollected that my great grandfather would play in the Salvation Army band in the Northern Ontario town of Dryden. My grandmother recited how, when she was a little girl, her father would walk along the tracks from Wabigoon into Dryden – about 15 miles – to join in what must have been a very small band. This was part of his and his family’s community and their social life. It shows how much the Salvation Army united people even in our hinterlands.

Today, many Guelph families are supported by this Kettle drive we celebrate tonight. To state that the drive is run with Salvation Army like precision is an understatement. Many people donate annually to its success. Yet, it is the efforts of staff and volunteers which ensure that Christmas is a joyful time for all. In the past, I have lifted a few boxes, driven a couple of hampers and attempted in a very, very small way to assist your efforts. It is nothing however to that which is done on a daily basis by your community,

I have witnessed many of you working overtime to ensure that the lonely, the less able, those on fixed incomes might enjoy a Christmas meal, that a child might experience the thrill of a gift and that Christmas will be a meaningful time of giving, reflecting and community. Your work is legion and dare I say, an institution in Guelph that is deeply appreciated.

It is important to me that the foundation of your mission be framed in Biblical verse. Hence I would be remiss if I did not refer to some meaningful words of Scripture. For me, the book of Isaiah is particularly poignant.

I will only cite one short passage from Isaiah 58 verses 10 and 11. These words succinctly anchor your work:

And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

This, I believe, is the mission and fulfillment of the Salvation Army here in Guelph, in the streets of London England 150 years ago, and throughout the world.

Thank your for sharing your love for others, for those with less, for those in crisis, for those, who, for a moment, are without hope.

The Salvation Army’s kettle and it’s chiming bells are not a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal as is cautioned against in Corinthians. They are a symbol of faith, hope, and love. They are a clarion call intoning that when we see a wrong or despair, it is a duty to ease suffering and improve life.

Thank you for being an important part of Guelph and for also being an important part of Canada and everywhere, 365 days a year. Thank you, William Booth. Yours are big boots to fill – here in Guelph, your spiritual heirs are doing marvelously.