Q&A with Howick Salvation Army pastor Sharyn Saggs

Mention the Salvation Army and most people will think of its vast charitable works.

However The Salvation Army is also an active and vibrant Christian church and SHARYN SAGGS has just been appointed pastor at the Salvation Army East City in Howick to lead alongside Captain Jules Badger.

Sharyn Saggs, passionate about her work and border collies. Photo Wayne Martin

Sharyn trained through Booth College of Mission (2011) and Laidlaw College (2012-present). She brings with her a strong commitment to the community and a sense of humour!

She also enjoys walking her border collie Skye, reading (with a Starbucks in hand), and spending time with friends and family.

Is there a difference between your role as a Salvation Army pastor and a chaplain?
Pastors and chaplains have similar roles; we both care for those in need and seek to ask the question: ‘Where is God in all of this?’ However, pastors are usually ordained and chaplains not necessarily so.

Also, pastors are usually connected to a church while chaplains may be employed by organisations or agencies.

Do your duties pertain only to church related activities or are you involved in other areas of the Army’s work?
Where to begin! Caring for others is really important to us in The Salvation Army, so a significant part of my role (which I love) is to be out in our community as much as possible.

What does your role in Howick East City church loosely involve?
My role is super varied and always brings plenty of left field surprises!

If I had to sum up the essence of my role it would be to preach the word of God and to journey with people through all the ups and downs that life brings.

Loving God and loving others.

As a pastor do you still hold a Salvation Army rank?
Yes, I hold the rank of envoy and my co-pastor Julie Badger holds the rank of captain.

Many people would consider Howick to be largely a middle class area with relatively affluent residents; do you believe this is a true picture?

It seems to me that this is a commonly held misconception. Howick has seen a recent shift in its demographic makeup and socio economic profile primarily due to immigration and
families shifting into the area to provide a better life for their kids.

The reality is that both these groups can find it fairly tough going despite their best intentions.

How giving is the local community to the Salvation Army family shops and food bank in the area?

Howick people are incredibly generous! Without their support our family stores would not exist and we would not be able to do the work we do in our community.

Are there underlying problems that locals may not be readily see or hear about? As pastors do you hear about a lot off difficult situations?

This is a massive question and one that I could easily spend the whole interview on. In short, we see broken relationships, addictions, mental health issues and the ensuing family complications as profound areas of pain in our community.

Challenging for us but we have a deeply held conviction that no matter who needs our help, or whatever the circumstance, we will provide a caring, non-judgemental space where people can find a way through.

It’s always a privilege to see people come out the other side of tough situations.

In light of this, how easy is it to ‘switch off’ when away from work?

My kids and my dog make sure I switch off fast! There’s nothing like a beach walk with an energetic border collie to help you de-stress from whatever the day has thrown at you.

Many people recognise the valuable social work done by the Salvation Army particularly in the area of alcohol and drug addiction and hardship. However, how aware are locals that the SA is church-based offering Sunday services with ministries to youth and children?

Not very aware at all!

Many people are surprised that we are a vibrant Christian church, which welcomes the whole family from pre-schoolers to seniors. We have just planted another church in Flatbush as well which meets on Sunday nights at Baverstock Primary School.

In general, how supportive is the local Howick community of SA church services and is the religious side still as relevant?

The Howick community is very supportive of The Salvation Army as a charity but remain unaware that we are a church too. But the reality is that our strength in caring for people,
through initiatives such as our food bank, come first and foremost as a result of our faith.

How relevant is the Easter season to our local community; is Christ’s rising from the dead questioned more actively by ‘rationalists’ today?

Great question!

If you’ve ever wondered ‘what’s the meaning of life?’ or ‘is there life after death?’ then Easter is still relevant. If we’re honest we all have this stuff going around in our heads, don’t we?

Easter is a great time to get to grips with these big questions of life – to pursue and
wrestle with this bloke called Jesus.

Do you have an active youth group in this district?
Very active. Our Intermediate kids group, Plugged, meets on Friday after school. East City Knights (high school age) hang out Friday nights and they’re always plotting some very
excellent (and definitely not churchy) adventure!

Right now planning for Easter Camp is in full swing and some 60 youth and leaders will head to Mystery Creek. This is totally open and new youth are always welcome.

What training did you undergo to become a Salvation Army pastor?

Training involves both theological and practical mission and takes about eight years, (one year prior to entering The Salvation Army Booth College of Mission, two years at the college and five years probation).

If you were Minister of Social Welfare for a day what would you do first?
Provide free and ongoing counselling and rehabilitation care for those suffering from addictions and mental health issues.

If you could ask any three philanthropists (living or dead) to dinner who would you ask?
I have to go with the obvious and say Jesus; he’s right up there. Martin Luther King Jnr (I’d love to pick his brains on public speaking) and George Clooney (witty, charming and
for the work he’s doing in Darfur).