In The Beginning

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Opening of Hurstville Citadel 1919

The Army Begins Its Work in Hurstville

Outreach programs were conducted in the Hurstville area by Rockdale Corps from about 1889.  The official year of commencement of The Salvation Army in Hurstville was in the month of April 1899.  The first appointed officer, Captain Alfred Hodges, related his memories of the commencement of the Hurstville Corps during its Golden Anniversary in 1949:  "The Divisional Commander at the time was Major Wessberg.  He directed that Lieutenant Sam Mitchell, who was stationed with Captain Hodges at Marrickville, precede the Captain to Hurstville, make a general survey, and meet the Divisional Commander and Captain the following Saturday.

When the Divisional Commander, with the Captain, arrived as scheduled, there was no Lieutenant Mitchell nor had he been seen around.  However, that Saturday night, just before a prayer meeting was to commence at a friend's residence, they were startled by the sound of voices singing praises.  On going to investigate, it was found to be none other than the Lieutenant with a number of converts, stating that the Lord had called him to Tom Ugly's Point, where he held services during the week and many souls were won and now he had marched them in true Army form to Hurstville." (Editor's note:  This was a distance of over 5 miles, or 8 kilometres - a long way to march!)

This preliminary meeting was conducted by Major Wessberg in the cottage of a Mr William Holloway.  The Sunday meeting was supported by Rockdale Corps Band.  The War Cry of 2 July 1899 reported: "An enthusiastic and interested crowd gathered at the hall.  Souls were saved in each meeting, and we totalled 9 seekers for the day.  Collections good.  Prospects magnificent.  Captain Rogers (a typographical error:  his name was Hodges) and Lieutenant Mitchell in charge.  Hallelujah!"

Captain Hodges declared that, 3 weeks after opening, 19 souls had "knelt at the Cross - 5 for holiness and 14 for salvation.  Great crowds attend the Sunday indoor meetings."  By 4 November 1899, Hurstville Corps had a wealth of soldiers, 18 in number and 14 recruits.  Though a "neat little hall" was "secured, to the Corps' delight" (as reported by The War Cry of 28 July 1906), the Corps ran into difficulties during 1906 with falling attendances and was unable to survive financially.  In the early days of the Corps, Sister Lillian Campbell was the only Soldier, and she often "beat the drum" and carried on the "Open-Air meeting" while the Officer visited the homes of the people.  After 7 ½ years of being a Corps in its own right, the Officers were withdrawn from Hurstville in 1907 and worked from Rockdale.

Battle Lines Regroup in Undertaker's Rooms

Despite moves to re-open the Corps in July 1912, there were "insoluble problems" in finding suitable land on which to build a hall.  Then, on 8 January 1914, a decision was made to hire the 'Carrington Hall' (also known as the 'Carrington Rooms'), which was situated above the local undertakers in Carrington Avenue.  The Corps was re-opened and Adjutant and Mrs Harry Sharp were appointed as the Commanding Officers.

Years later, Major Allen Sharp (Adjutant Sharp's son) recalled his experiences during the "re-grouping of the battle lines" at Hurstville.  Allen was his father's only 'musical' support (on cornet) during the first weeks of the Corps' existence.  "Coffins lined the stairway and supplied 'atmosphere' for the solemn warnings pronounced by the leader of the meetings.  One Sunday evening, to the accompaniment of the undertaker's hammering on a 'rush' job, the Army upstairs sang "You are drifting to your doom!".

And so The Salvation Army began its work in Hurstville, for the glory of God and the extension of His kingdom.

 Blood and Fire

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“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.”
Psalm 119:14

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