Salvation Army Social Mission team sends message of inclusion at Melbourne Pride March
11 June 2021
To send a message of care and inclusion to the LGBTIQA+ community, The Salvation Army Social Mission’s Victorian team marched in Melbourne’s Midsumma Pride March on 23 May 2021.
The team, marching under the social mission rainbow banner, included officers, soldiers, staff, supporters and LGBTIQA+ community members. Social Mission incorporates The Salvation Army’s homelessness, alcohol and other drugs, youth, and domestic and family violence streams.
“We marched in the Pride March, because we want to let the LGBTIQA+ community know that we accept all as they come, without condition,” said Major Jenny Begent, Head of Social Mission.
“We danced and celebrated alongside other organisations, as the crowds lined the streets with a cheer,” said Captain Chris Footer, a Salvos Stores chaplain.
“This cheer felt particularly poignant for many, myself included. Hearing the public chant, ‘Good on ya, Salvos!’ within the context of inclusion was especially moving, reminding me of the importance of the work we do. The Salvation Army is founded upon the principle of reaching out to, and supporting, all people. The compassion, grace and love which was on display for all to see was certainly indicative of this commission.”
Chris explained that it was humbling to be acknowledged as Salvos amid the crowd, and for some Salvation Army supporters to ask if they could join the group.
“We ecstatically accepted, of course, and with our numbers unexpectedly but exhilaratingly growing, we continued our journey onwards,” he said.
Displaying a message of inclusion, love and safety
The 3km march, held according to a COVID-19 safety plan and regulations – and on a very warm day, meant that people registered for the event, social-distanced as they walked, and maintained hydration.
“At the end of the 3km journey, we reflected upon the accomplishments of the day,” said Chris.
“Amid the chaos of COVID-19, lockdowns, restrictions and the usual busyness of life, more than 50 individuals stood, united, displaying to the population of Melbourne that The Salvation Army Social Mission is a place of inclusion, of love and of safety.
“We look forward to expanding our contingent next year, as COVID-19 restrictions allow, and celebrating the diversity and inclusion of all people.”
Christ asked us to love
“Catherine and William Booth [Salvation Army founders] called The Salvation Army to reach out to those on the margins, those rejected by society,” said Jenny. “LGBTIQA+ persons are those who are still, for the most part, rejected by society and, sadly, the Church. It is difficult for many LGBTIQA+ persons to even enter, much less seek help from a faith-based organisation. For them, faith-based organisations are not places of safety but of trauma. Many experience the ‘pastoral gaze’ and hear, ‘Of course we accept you for who you are, but we want you to change.’
“Christ asked us only to love, he didn’t add any conditions to that. Love always conquers fear and it always wins. Social Mission marched to be a part of building a future of equality and safety for LGBTIQA+ people.”
– Simone Worthing