Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal speaks at the opening of International Headquarters, watched by General John Larsson and Commissioner Freda Larsson (photo by Gabriel Sim).
Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal unveils the plaque commemorating the opening of International Headquarters (photo by Gabriel Sim).
From left: General John Larsson, Commissioner Freda Larsson, HRH the Princess Royal, General John Gowans (R), Commissioner Gisèle Gowans, General Eva Burrows (R) and former Chief of the Staff Commissioner Earle Maxwell (photo by Gabriel Sim).
HRH the Princess Royal with General John Larsson (left) and Major Charles Swansbury. The major's appointment has been to oversee the rebuilding project, and the General made special mention of this role during the evening celebration (photo by Gabriel Sim).
HRH the Princess Royal signs the visitors' book at the new International Headquarters (photo by Gabriel Sim).
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Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal opens new International Headquarters
A 'working building' but also a 'worship building' is how Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal described the Salvation Army's new International Headquarters when she officially declared the building open during a ceremony broadcast live on the Internet. The princess told a congregation which included Salvation Army leaders past and present, members of the construction and project team and IHQ staff that she had watched the building's construction with great interest on the many occasions she had driven down London's Queen Victoria Street over the past year.
Her Royal Highness said she was glad to have the opportunity to see the building from the inside, although she recognised that, being almost completely constructed of glass, the new IHQ was very open for all to see. 'This reflects the way the Army works,' she said. 'It likes to be seen doing what it does.'
Referring to the speech given in 1963 by her grandmother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, when she opened the previous IHQ, the princess said that the words spoken about The Salvation Army then were still true today – that the Movement has a tremendous impact and international spread and that it recognises the importance of having its headquarters in London, one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities.
The Princess Royal paid tribute to the Army's stewardship in creating a new headquarters at virtually no cost and with an adjoining commercial development which will provide ongoing income. She commended the way the site had been 'recycled'.
The afternoon's celebration began with General John Larsson greeting Salvationists and friends around the world who were watching the service live on the Internet, making it a truly international event.
The General said it was a time to give thanks, and paid tribute to Mrs Elizabeth Orr Bell – who purchased the freehold of the site for The Salvation Army back in 1891 - and to Commissioner Brian Taylor, promoted to Glory just four weeks earlier, who as International Secretary for Business Administration had overseen the rebuilding project, delaying his retirement to see the scheme through. 'This building is a tribute to him,' said the General.
General Larsson also gave thanks to the team of professionals involved in the IHQ project, but he affirmed that, above all, 'We thank and praise God in whose name we work and serve. To his glory this building is dedicated.'
After the Princess Royal unveiled a plaque to commemorate the occasion, Commissioner Freda Larsson (World President of Women's Ministries) offered a prayer in which she articulated the hope that all IHQ staff would be 'representatives for God'
The congregation then rose to sing 'Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven', accompanied by an ensemble from the International Staff Band, before the Princess Royal was given an opportunity to look round the new building and meet some of the IHQ staff.
Before leaving to go on to another engagement, the princess signed a visitors' book at a table made of wood from the counter at the entrance of the original IHQ building, destroyed by fire in 1941.
Later in the day, a less formal meeting featured contributions from retired Salvation Army leaders, IHQ staff anddelegates from the International College for Officers. The celebration was led by the Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Israel L. Gaither.
An interview with General John Gowans (R) – during whose time in office many of the design ideas were decided upon – revealed that he was delighted in the way his vision had become reality. The glass building, he said, fulfilled the objectives of being transparent and welcoming.
Former Chief of the Staff Commissioner Earle Maxwell brought greetings from Australia and spoke about how a headquarters should also be a 'heart-quarters' – a blend of competence and compassion. His fellow Antipodean, Retired General Eva Burrows, revealed that the idea of IHQ occupying a new, smaller building on the 101 Queen Victoria Street site had originally been discussed during her term of office in the late 1980s and early 90s but that the timing hadn't been right. She described herself as being a 'stakeholder' in IHQ, not because of her service there or even because of the money she, with so many others, had sacrificially given towards the previous building, but because she was a stakeholder in The Salvation Army itself through years of service. She declared, though, that the 'dividends' had been fantastic.
The celebration was given a truly international flavour by delegates from the International College for Officers, who presented an enthusiastic version of 'He's got the whole world in his hands', affirming in one verse that: 'He's got International Headquarters in his hands.' The internationalism of the IHQ staff itself was reflected during a time of creative worship which featured prayers in five different languages. Dance which accompanied a vocal duet enhanced the spirit of worship.
After words of encouragement and challenge from General John Larsson and a fervent prayer from Commissioner Amos Makina (International Secretary for Africa, IHQ) the day was rounded off in a way that demonstrated that, amid ultra-modern surroundings, the Army still values its past. The singing of the Founder's song, 'O boundless salvation!', was followed by a reminder of why IHQ existsl, as the congregation – accompanied by International Headquarters musicians – tested the strength of the new roof with the rousing singing of 'Give to Jesus glory'. It was an appropriate way to end an historic day.
Report by Kevin Sims