The Eastern Territory Staff Songsters (ETSS) had an incredible ministry weekend (March 5-8) which included a few firsts for the group. The first two days together were spent in the recording studio at Territorial Headquarters. Though the group has released several albums, this was the first recording session by any songster group in the recently renovated recording studio at THQ. Using an amazing array of technology and projection screens, the songsters laid down some beautiful tracks, all under the guiding hand of master recording engineer, Phil Bulla.
For newer members of the group who never recorded before, there was a lot of respect gained for the process of recording. Studio work can be very grueling, repetitive, and at times, monotonous. For a group of 25+ singers, recording is truly a ‘team sport’. We had to work together as never before to listen to each other and to sing as one. Those few moments that felt especially taxing were always lightened by a joke or word of encouragement from someone within the group. We hope you will be pleased with the finished product which is a joint NYSB and ETSS Christmas album. Stay tuned for news of the album’s release.
Considering the COVID-19 epidemic, it was a blessing to be able to meet for our end of winter ministry weekend in the first place. Had it been just a few days later, the chances of us being able to come together in this way would be almost negligible. God’s timing in these matters is always perfect.
After two solid days of recording, the group was privileged to have a chance for some worship and corporate reflection and to participate in some ministry outreach opportunities. Saturday morning, the group met for worship and reflection. For many of the group, it was a unique opportunity to join together after two busy days, and to sit and wait upon the Lord and let Him speak to us through silence, personal prayer and corporate prayer and sharing.
Following that, we were privileged to visit the nearby Tappan Zee Manor assisted living facility and minister to the residents there. Again, God’s hand was at work, as facilities such as these would soon be closed to visitors. After we received a blessing ourselves from such an outreach, we next headed to the Palisades Mall (Rockland County, NY), for a couple of mini concerts to the hundreds of mall goers who were there. Such a ministry calls to mind the familiar Salvation Army song:
Do some witnessing for Jesus
In the home and in the mart,
Where the cares of life and fashion
Crowd the Savior from the heart;
When we urge his claims with wisdom
Many choose the better part;
We are witnesses for Jesus
In the home and in the mart.
Tell the world! O tell the world…
Executive Officer Lt. Colonel Patricia LaBossiere later shared her reflection that as our music wafted up through the four levels of the gigantic shopping center, it was heard by many curious onlookers watching from the railings above. Like the seeds being scattered by the sower in the Gospel, our prayer is that the music we shared will one day reap a harvest of faith.
Sunday morning, we journeyed ‘down the Jersey Shore’ to Ocean County Citadel in Toms River. We helped lead a terrific morning of worship and enjoyed a great time of fellowship with the officers and soldiers of that corps. A significant highlight of the group was reconnecting with Lt. Colonel Norman Bearcroft who soldiers at the corps. Many band and songster groups in the UK, Canada, and here in the US owe their existence to this great man of God who has dedicated his life to the Salvation Army’s music ministry.
During our weekend together it was announced that Songster Leader Gavin Whitehouse will be moving on. As stated in our official ETSS policy manual, musical leaders of ETSS typically hold the post for five years and great thanks is expressed to Gavin who was asked to carry on in that position for an additional three years, altogether serving 8 years as staff songster leader. His last engagement with the group will be at the upcoming 2020 Vision Congress (June 12-14). We will later provide a more complete account of Gavin’s tenure as ETSS leader and much thanks is expressed to him for his musical and spiritual leadership.
We are pleased to share that the new songster leader of ETSS is Erik Jones. Erik currently serves as our deputy and is the Divisional Music Director (DMD) for the Empire Division. We are excited to see God’s guiding hand moving through all of this as we look forward to new ministry opportunities in the future.
ETSS Facebook Page
If you haven’t done so already, give us a like on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ETSS2005/). We have some wonderful videos of our performances over the years which will be sure to bless your spirits and hopefully help get you through this current health crisis. Our prayers and best wishes are extended to you and your families during this time.