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How do we rate our history?

Reading through reviews on the internet about a Salvation Army Heritage Centre, I found an interesting comment. Peter M wrote, “This heritage centre deserves a much higher rating than Trip Advisor gives as it is an excellent place to visit…” (30 June 2015). Peter M went on to rate this heritage centre 5 out of 5! What rate should we give our history? Maybe the rate given will depend on what we see as the purpose of our history.

In my experience there are a number of categories to which we rate our history. These categories include: Entertainment – do we see history as something that grabs our attention and amuses us? Education – do we see history as a collection of facts that inform us of past people and events? Genealogical – do we see history as a way of mapping our own family? Comfort – do we see history as a way to praise who we are and what we stand for? In observing attendance at public historical meetings, I see history as entertainment and comfort attract the largest crowds. While history as education interests the ‘serious’ history buffs and the genealogists as mainly focused on who is related to whom. None of the purposes are wrong and each have a part to play in the understanding and promotion of Salvation Army history, but should these be an end in themselves?

I would like to pose another category in which to rate history – Transformational. A more in-depth and meaningful study of history that in turn changes our future actions. Starting with a deeper research into history. Not only looking at the people and events but placing them into the historical context. This will help us to assess what will work better into the future, where we went wrong in the past and repent – not only to people, but to God, and promote the right type of culture and people to carry the movement forward. A person recently said to me, do not make us relearn a different history. Well, if the current history is not helping to transform us, then we need to learn a new history! We, as a movement need to stop using history for our comfort and use it as a transformational tool.

The theme for this year’s Salvation Army History Symposium, ‘History: a collection of memories or a collective myth?’, it is hoped will investigate areas of history in search of truth. In turn it will help us to better understand the past and direct us toward a stronger future. I think that when people see history transform us as individuals and us as a movement, then we will all rate our history a 5 out of 5!


Garth Hentzschel

President, Brisbane Chapter

20 June 2018

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