Friday, October 20, 2017
SHALL WE COMMENCE?
MAJOR CHESTER D. DANIELSON
February 25, 1931 - April 14, 2014
Meeting Major Chester "Chet" Danielson was my introduction to The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army had a church in the little city of Ontario, California, and when my family moved to that town in 1965 and got our kids enrolled in school, we became acquainted with Chet, his wife Vicki and their five kids, who also went to the same school as mine. So we really knew him through PTA before we learned anything about his "job" as the pastor of The Salvation Army Corps (Church.)
About a year later the position of Secretary at The Salvation Army Corps became available and Vicki suggested that I apply for it. I did, and this really was my learning time about the wonderful organization and its founding. The Salvation Army's International Headquarters says this: "The Salvation Army began in 1865 when William Booth, a London minister, gave up the comfort of his pulpit and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.
His original aim was to send converts to established churches of the day, but soon he realized that the poor did not feel comfortable or welcome in the pews of most of the churches and chapels of Victorian England. Regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, unwashed people came to join them in worship. Booth decided to found a church especially for them."
Working in the church office with Chet and Vicki was to see Booth's mission in practice. Chet was a pastor who loved his flock. Each Sunday morning he drove the Church bus in a wide sweep of the poorer sections of town and brought in every child and every adult who wanted to be in Sunday School and Church that day. He took them back home at the conclusion of the services. He did that for evening service too. He did that again for Wednesday night prayer meeting. He provided musical instruments and taught willing children how to play them, so they could provide music for the church services. Clothing was available for those in need; food was furnished for those who needed it. Children often came without shoes, but they went home with them. Sometimes the police brought people to The Salvation Army for help – and Chet and Vicki, with the money that was donated by the Community - used that money to help people in our local community. The Danielsons were ministers of love.
Just as in the regular Military Service, officers are moved from place to place, and after 5 or so years, the Danielsons were moved to a new town, and they ended up their career teaching at The Salvation Army's Officer's Training School in Palos Verdes, CA. I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at their retirement service, and I was proud to do so. We kept in touch.
I was sad to learn of his passing. I hold so many good thoughts of him and Vicki. Really good people they were. In my opinion (and I told him this), his only foible was that when it was time for his sermon, he looked out at all those people in the pews that most of society didn't want in their churches – many unkempt, some unemployed or unemployable and mostly uneducated – and solemnly pronounced: "Let us commence."
The congregation may not have understood what "commence" meant, but they all knew what was next: Our Major was going to preach!