What is it like to be a member of the Salvation Army?
“The Salvation Army was started by William Booth in 1865. It was known as The East London Christian Mission. In 1878 the name ‘The Salvation Army’ was first used – a picture which caught people’s imagination. This Army never fights against people but against wrong in the world. Many soldiers (another name for members) choose to wear uniform as a sign that they belong to God’s Army. We are very much part of the global church. Our message is based on the Bible, our motivation is the love for God and our mission is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to meet people’s needs in his name without discrimination.
“Each Salvation Army corps is run by a Commanding Officer or Officers. They have a similar role to that of a Minister or a Priest in another church. Commissioned officers are men and women who have left their original job and taken a course of training – either at the William Booth College in London or while they are helping run the corps. This prepares them to work full time in The Salvation Army. Officers have to be prepared to serve at any time of the day or night. They not only lead worship on Sundays, organize daily activities, deal with corps finance and property and care for their soldiers; other people in the community claim attention too. Local officers are volunteer workers who do the kind of jobs which occur in most churches – treasurer, hall keeper, secretary and so on. Some are given military titles as you would expect in an army.
“Sundays are very busy for Salvationists! The day starts with a meeting called the Holiness Meeting. There may be an open-air meeting also. The meeting starts with everyone praising God. Salvationists enjoy singing, but they also value the quiet moments of prayer which follow. Any member of the congregation is invited to speak to God aloud, on behalf of others. No one, except the leader, knows exactly what will happen in the meetings because Salvation Army there is no set pattern. There is usually a reading from the Bible, followed by a sermon, or talk, to explain the ideas in the passage. Salvation Army meetings also involve testimony time. This is when people are invited to talk about their experiences of life as a Christian. Salvationists hold open-air meetings as well as indoor meetings.
“People of all ages are part of the Salvation Army corps. In the Salvation Army, babies are dedicated rather than christened or baptised. There is also a thanksgiving ceremony for those parents who do not feel they can make all the promises a dedication requires. Children from the age of seven meet together on a Sunday to sing and pray, and to learn about the Bible and Salvation Army beliefs (called doctrines). Many boys and girls between the ages of seven and fourteen become Junior Soldiers, signing a card to confirm their promise – to pray and to read the Bible so their knowledge of God will grow. The Junior Soldiers work at an Award Scheme. Their leader, the Junior Soldier Sergeant, organises all the work they do to earn badges. The first badge is the bronze award, in order to prepare them to be good Salvationists. Teenage Salvationists are part of the main corps, but sometimes they meet informally at someone’s home for coffee and a chat after the evening meeting.
“Salvationists promise not to drink alcohol or smoke. One reason for this is that both alcohol and tobacco are harmful to health. William Booth and his workers saw many whose lives had been destroyed by drinking too much. He felt that it would be helpful if Salvationists set an example by drinking only non-alcoholic drinks. When someone becomes a member they will solemnly stand beside the Army flag and sign the Articles of War at their swearing-in ceremony. The congregation will share this special occasion.
“Helping people in the community in really practical ways has always been at the heart of what the Salvation Army do as a church. During the week there are meetings at The Salvation Army, for example a women’s meeting and a club for the young people. There are also lots of community outreach events – from drop-in centres, luncheon clubs and playgroups to more specialised work and support groups. Evangelism – telling people who have not heard about Jesus and giving them the chance to respond – is another very important part of life as a Salvationist.”Bookmark