Leaving the Boss in Charge
Bill Peck from Rangiora Corps shares his journey of faith and his passion for connecting with people through music, media and the message of Jesus.
I grew up in Hornby in Christchurch, the middle child of five children. When we were young, my eldest sister Dianne took my younger sister and me to our local church. She asked if we could sit with her in Sunday school but was told that we would have to go to the junior Sunday school class instead as we were younger than her. Not happy with the response she received, Dianne took us to The Salvation Army and asked the same question. This time she was told, ‘You can sit wherever you want to—you are welcome’. My mother became a soldier in The Salvation Army, as did two of my sisters. And I thought, Why wouldn’t you follow the cross? and I became a junior soldier. It was through the Hornby Corps that I was introduced to playing a brass instrument, and I began my lifelong love of music.
The God of mystery
I remember encountering Jesus when I was 10 or 11 years old. What first sparked my faith was looking at our universe—at the intricacies, the plans and the construction of our world—I knew that it didn’t just happen. I have always had a sense that God works in mysterious ways and knew that our world was made by a mysterious God.
I moved from Hornby to get married and to train as a police officer, and then returned to the area to serve in this role for 17 years. I knew many members of the local community through my connections with The Salvation Army. Looking back, I can see that I drifted away from some aspects of my faith when I joined the police service. The culture and lifestyle were different. I used language that I don’t use today, but I never forgot that God was there, and I kept talking to him. I continued to support The Salvation Army. I played in the Christchurch Police Band and sometimes we played together with The Salvation Army band. If the Sallies needed something, I was always there to help.
Poor health caused me to retire from my work as a police officer and I moved to Oxford. I remember saying to God, ‘Here I am Lord, I am back’, and have been faithful ever since. I am grateful to the many people and The Salvation Army community for always supporting me in my faith. It was like coming home to family. I joined the Rangiora Corps in 2000 and helped to establish a small brass band. I became a senior soldier in 2004 and five years later I became the bandmaster.
Ministry through music and media
I tell people about Jesus all the time. I work as a competency assessor for Firth Concrete, which involves lots of travelling around the South Island. This job gives me real opportunities to connect with people. I always take my bugle with me when I am on the road for work and often play at cenotaphs along the way. People always come up to me with their stories and we connect. Another way I share my faith at work is by drawing cartoons. Sometimes people don’t want to read, but they will look at a cartoon. I always include the nativity scene in each Christmas cartoon I create for my company Christmas card.
I am a life member and chaplain for the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA) in Rangiora. As a chaplain, I have the privilege of officiating at funerals and organising and assisting at commemorative parades. Some time ago, I took a funeral and a man came to talk to me afterwards about my faith. I had a Bible in my pocket, and I took it out and gave it to him. You just have to take your chances to share and let ‘the Boss be in charge of the rest’.
On Thursday nights I play the ‘Last Post’ at 18:00 hours at the RSA in Rangiora. I want people to remember the sacrifices that others have made for us. I also want to share the message of Jesus every opportunity I have, through playing music and talking with people.
Every Sunday for the last two decades I have put on my full Salvation Army uniform including my cap. A group of us hold an open-air service to the public on the High Street in Rangiora with music, prayer and a message. The Army uniform should never be underestimated. It is a door to conversation. The Salvation Army has a strong presence in this community and people want to chat with you. You are never too old to share a message of hope.
Knowing Jesus has changed my life. I am happy; it doesn’t get any better than that. When I am sad, my recovery time is fast. I don’t mope around, because I know Jesus. He is always available; you don’t have to wait or book an appointment to talk to him. He is always there. The Lord’s Prayer in the Book of Matthew is one of my favourite passages. Jesus told us what to pray. What we can all do is just keep doing it. You just don’t know what God is going to do.