By Jennifer Bieman, St. Thomas Times-Journal
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 4:39:21 EST PM
It’s safe to call Salvation Army Colonels Deborah and Lee Graves a power couple.
After all, the pair now hold two top leadership spots in the international Christian organization’s Canada and Bermuda operations.
Col. Lee Graves, a St. Thomas native, is settling into his new title of chief secretary for all Salvation Army’s Canada and Bermuda territory — two areas linked up for their historic commonwealth connections. His wife Deborah Graves is starting 2017 in her new role as territorial secretary for women’s ministries.
“I have, linking into my office, all the various disciplines that are responsible for business section and personnel section, programs and communications,” said Lee Graves, adding his job is akin to a chief operating officer.
Graves, who’s now second-in-command for the territory, has been involved in the Salvation Army since 1983 and spent 16 years as a corps officer before taking on roles at the Salvation Army’s Canadian headquarters in Toronto. Among other appointments, he’s been a pastor at four Salvation Army congregations, served as a divisional youth secretary and divisional commander.
Together, the Graves have accepted appointments across Canada. They’ve picked up stakes and moved their family to where the Salvation Army has needed them most.
“You really give yourself fully to the spiritual disciplines, all that it means to be an officer of the Salvation Army,” he said. “It has been an adventure… Our motto would be ‘Anytime, anywhere.’”
Though the Graves assumed their new roles at the beginning of the year, they’re unable to say how long their appointments will last and can’t completely rule out another move in the future.
“It isn’t always easy, but that’s the commitment we make,” said Graves, who is living in Toronto but will be traveling a lot for his work. “I could be appointed anywhere in the world or remain in Canada, but it would be highly unlikely at this level. We do serve in 128 countries in the world so there’s lots of opportunity.”
Though the husband-wife Salvation Army tag-team might seem unusual, the close-knit Christian organization has a long history of promoting partners together.
“It is commonplace for husband wife leadership teams, as it were, to be appointed… To some degree, it has happened over much of The Salvation Army’s history since we began in 1878,” said Major Brad Halse, communications secretary for the Salvation Army’s international headquarters in London, England.
Halse said Salvation Army founder William Booth was strongly supported in his leadership role by his wife Catherine. Over its history, Halse said many husband and wife partnerships have ascended to leadership roles both nationally and internationally.
“This is also the case with ‘ground-level’ community based appointments, where the vast majority of Salvation Army officers, married or single, serve,” said Halse in an email.
Halse is not wrong, husband-wife duos aren’t a one-off. The Salvation Army’s St. Thomas Citadel is led by a couple, Captains Dave and Nyree Bond.
Though their jobs take both Graves to the far-flung regions of the continent, he still has a soft spot for his hometown.
“I still have family in St. Thomas and of course, St. Thomas is my home congregation,” he said. “One day, when I retire, I’ll be able to join my friends in St. Thomas.”