Officers’ retirement means changes are coming for the Salvation Army

The pending retirement of Estevan’s Salvation Army officers is going to mean some changes for the ministry and the services it delivers to the area.

Majors Wilfred and Heather Harbin announced earlier in the spring they were going to retire at the end of June, ending a lengthy career in ministry with the Salvation Army that spanned 41 years for Heather Harbin and 38 years for her husband. They have been in Estevan since the summer of 2015.

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Estevan will not be receiving new Salvation Army officers, but that doesn’t mean the ministry is leaving Estevan. In fact, Heather Harbin expects the Salvation Army will continue to have a strong presence in the city.

Ronza Reynard, who is the family services manager for Estevan, will move into the role of ministry director. She will be looking after both Estevan and Weyburn.

Jane Anne Ireland will become the new manager of family services for Estevan.

“Ronza is going to be the lead for everything,” said Heather Harbin. “She’s been here for a long time. She knows what’s happening, so she’s a great person to take our place.”

The difference between a ministry director and the officers is that the officers are ordained ministers. A big part of the Harbins’ duties was looking after the church that was part of the Salvation Army’s building on Fourth Street in Estevan.

Reynard will not be handling the church.

“She will be running the business of it. She’ll be looking after the family services, food bank and thrift store. She’ll be the director of all of them.”

Clients and customers should not notice a difference in those three areas. Harbin noted that she and her husband have been overseeing those aspects of the local operations, but responsibility largely fell on Reynard.

Since Estevan will not have officers for the time being, the church portion of the Salvation Army’s local ministry is now classified as inactive, meaning it isn’t offering Sunday services. The last service was held on May 26.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen down the road. In two or three years, who knows? Maybe they’ll send new officers in here,” said Harbin.

Harbin noted they had been down to around 10 people a week for the church service, as their numbers have dwindled. While the declining numbers for the service played a role in the decision to designate the church as inactive, the absence of officers was the biggest reason.

She hopes the area in the Salvation Army’s Estevan building that currently houses the church will be used for programs for family services, so that it won’t sit vacant.

“We’ve already been looking at things and talking about things that could take place over there,” Harbin said.

The church was used for programs such as Bible studies and other initiatives, and at one time, it was used for the Warm Welcome shelter when Warm Welcome offered a place to stay for homeless people.

“If people are having input, they’ll listen to all of that, and see what might work best,” said Harbin.

Harbin said the decision to not have new officers in Estevan and Weyburn was made because there are 40 officers retiring at the end of this month and only 12 are being commissioned.

“There’s just not enough of us, and so the smaller places – it’s not just us, it’s in every province in Canada – … are just not getting officers because there’s none to send in,” said Harbin.

Heather Harbin said she and her husband have been busy trying to finish up their work at the Salvation Army and to move out of their residence in Estevan. They have not yet decided what they’re going to do next.

She said she has been looking forward to retirement for a while, but she is going to miss the job.

“As it draws closer – I’ve been doing this for 41 years – so it’s an ending to a big part of my life, and for both of us,” said Harbin.

While they wonder what they’re going to do all day, Harbin said she knows of people who have retired who find they were busier after retirement than when they were working.

Harbin and her husband believe they are leaving the Salvation Army in Estevan and Weyburn in good hands as they enter this time of transition.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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