Seasons come and go - very quickly, and as the current ISB season comes to an end it is a good time to reflect upon the impact and influence of the ministry it has had around the UK.
I have now been the Executive Officer (EO) of the Band since September 2013. The role gives me a unique insight into the workings, function and purpose of what it does, and the difference it makes. I am part of the band, but at the same time am able to sit on the edge and admire the ethic and ethos of what is the ISB. At this moment in time I hear the band more than most both during a Wednesday evening rehearsal and the monthly Corps visits.
The EO has a pastoral function within the ISB and in effect is the Spiritual Director of the band. The position requires the ability to be able to take a joke, (one stumble over a word can cause ongoing reminders), to listen carefully and keep a confidence.
As I have become part of the fabric, there are five things about the ISB that inspires me.
- This is the most disciplined group of people I have ever worked with. They never knowingly miss a coffee or meal break! Nor do they miss a rehearsal or ever fail to maintain the required levels of deportment and musical excellence. The members’ Wednesday work day is shaped around being in London for a 5.45pm rehearsal start. Almost three hours later, they head for home.
- There is a strong commitment from each member to invest in the next generation of Salvationist musicians. We talk a lot about being legacy makers. We take this seriously. On most Sundays away, after morning worship, members can be seen in conversation with the young musicians of the 'home Corps' (Church) passing on advice, giving a short tutorial. Memories are made for many.
- The ISB draws people who haven't visited The Salvation Army for years. The networking during the interval and after the Saturday evening concert is often the catalyst for people returning to the 'fold'. The influence of this band goes way beyond Army boundaries.
- A marching band still attracts a crowd during a Saturday afternoon. On numerous occasions the Band’s open-air ministry has resulted in good contacts being made.
- The Sunday morning service is given a high priority in the bands scheduling. Time and time again the spoken testimony of a member of the Band relating to their faith has both challenged and inspired. In this present season the band has played Heaton's Army classic 'Just as I am' just before this preacher has got up to speak. If you are not inspired to give a clear message of that, then perhaps preaching is not for you!
During the 2nd half of the season the Band prayers in rehearsal have taken us through Romans 8. This theme has flowed into the Sunday morning worship. It's surprising how words written over two thousand years ago are still so relevant!
This is a busy band which is given many different opportunities. For example, The EO leads the Parliamentary Carol Service with over 400 people present; a small ensemble gets to play on the Christmas Radio 2 morning show. The ISB is also the duty band at the Army's major PR event at the Royal Albert Hall and also at its most sacred event, the Commissioning and Ordination of new Salvation Army ministers.
This current season has also seen the band in the studio recording three CD's. We remain one of the highest selling bands in the Brass band genre.
As I write this reflection I am sitting in a Wednesday evening rehearsal. As with most weeks there are a number of visitors who are enjoying listening to the band. There is always a welcome for those who come and this opportunity is open to everyone. Just turn up.
Next year the ISB celebrates 125 of ministry and service. As we look forward to this milestone, the band is preparing for the Boundless Congress at the O2 in London and its tour to Australia. Time flies, but it always does when something worthwhile is being done.