"People are depraved and are slaves to sin. God can forgive us of that sin through Jesus' resurrection," said Major Warren Dabis when asked about the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "We should have a life of victory rather than despair. We need to use the resurrection power to change our lives. We are set free from the slavery of sin." Dabis said the power comes from God to Christians.
"God empowers us with the Holy Spirit to live a new life. Non-Christians don't have this power. They may have intellectual power or power the devil gives them, but it is counterfeit and leads to their detriment." Dabis said people can use this worldly power to gain wealth and power on earth. "We can gain the whole world, but lose our souls.
"After we understand the triumph of the resurrection, we need to do something with it. We need to share that power," remarked Dabis. To share this power, the San Diego Citadel offers social programs, such as homeless assistance, scouting programs, gym activities, arts and crafts, and senior exercise classes. "All of these are a part of us educating and building up the total man. If we are to minister to spiritual matters, we need to do it in a holistic way."
Lt. Colonel Diane O'Brien added, "The Salvation Army was started by a man who reached out to people who were not being welcomed at other churches. He said, 'How can you talk to a man about his soul if his stomach is empty?'"
Many people are aware of Salvation Army through their bell-ringing during the Christmas season. O'Brien said that the bell-ringing is their primary fund-raiser to run the ministries and social programs the Salvation Army offers. I asked O'Brien about the uniforms and military titles. "We use all military terms because we are fighting against an enemy, evil. The uniforms also get rid of the differences between people. Our churches have such a mix of people that it allows us to be reminded that we are one," said O'Brien. "I choose to wear the uniform as much as possible because it allows me to witness frequently. Wherever I go, people ask me about it or feel like they can approach me."
On Easter, the San Diego Citadel Corps held a 6:30 a.m. sunrise service on a patio that overlooks the ocean. A crowd of 40 people gathered for the early service; many wore Salvation Army uniforms. An 18-piece Salvation Army band led "Up From the Grave He Arose"; "He Lives! He Lives! Christ Jesus Lives Today"; "Thine Is the Glory, Risen, Conquering Son."
Dabis's sermon started with a quote by A.W. Tozer. "I cannot give in to the Devil's principal, deceitful tactic, which makes so many Christians satisfied with an Easter celebration instead of experiencing the power of Christ's resurrection. It is the Devil's business to keep Christians mourning and weeping with pity beside the cross, instead of demonstrating that Jesus Christ is risen, indeed," read Dabis. Dabis's sermon encouraged the congregation to live a changed life because of Christ's resurrection. "Christ died for our sins, was buried, and then rose from the dead to conquer sin and death for us."
After service, people attended an Easter breakfast. Joe, a band member, said, "I was attracted to the Salvation Army while I was on [a military] tour. At the time, there was a lot of bad press about the $400,000 salary of a Red Cross executive. I heard that the general of the Salvation Army makes about what I make -- something in the 20,000-dollar range. He was asked why, if he ran a multinational organization, he had such low pay. He replied, 'To do the work of God is payment enough. '"
"The Salvation Army Church is closely affiliated with the Protestant Church, except that we have no public observations of the sacraments," remarked Dabis about the church. Dabis said the Salvation Army believes Jesus spoke figuratively about breaking bread. "We see baptism and communion as symbolism of an inward resolve. Something that has taken place inwardly, so we don't need to do them outwardly. This idea of communion is something we do whenever we eat."
Each week, I ask the pastor what he or she believes happens after someone dies. Dabis responded, "Unless people accept Christ, they are going to hell. Christians will go to heaven." I asked Lt. Colonel O'Brien what she thought heaven would be like. "I have all sorts of wild imaginations about heaven. We will be enfolded in the presence of God. The Bible speaks about the pearly gates, streets paved with gold, and that there will be many mansions. The writers of the Bible were unable to describe heaven so this is the best they could try to communicate it," said O'Brien.
Major Dabis said, "Heaven is a 24-hour celebration service where there are no longer the cares of this world. We will give God honor and glory and celebrate with Him."
4170 Balboa Avenue, Clairemont
- Denomination: Salvation Army
- Founded locally: 1910
- Senior pastor: Major Warren Dabis
- Congregation size: 125
- Staff size: 5
- Sunday school enrollment: 60
- Annual budget: $275,000
- Weekly giving: $2000
- Singles program: no
- Dress: business casual to dressy
- Diversity: diverse
- Sunday worship: 10:30 a.m.
- Length of reviewed service: 1 hour
- Website: sandiego.salvationarmy.org