Where we began

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General William BoothThe Salvation Army was founded in London's East End during 1865 by one-time Methodist minister William Booth and his wife Catherine. 

Originally, Booth named the organisation the Christian Mission, but in 1878 Booth reorganised it along military lines when his son Bramwell objected to being called a "volunteer" and stated that he was a "regular" or nothing.  Booth then changed the name to The Salvation Army.

William Booth became referred to as "the General", and Catherine was known as"the Mother of The Salvation Army".  William preached to the poor, and Catherine spoke to the wealthy, gaining financial support for their work.  She also acted as a religious minister, which was unusual at the time; the Foundation Deed of the Christian Mission stated that women had the same rights to preach as men.  William Booth described the organisation's approach:  The three 'S's' best expressed the way in which the Army administered to the 'down and outs': first, soup; second, soap; and finally, salvation.

In 1880, The Salvation Army started its work in three other countries: Australia, Ireland, and the United States.  It was not always an official officer (ordained minister) of The Salvation Army who started the Army's work in a new country: sometimes Salvationists emigrated to countries and started operating as "The Salvation Army" on their own authority.  When the first 'official' officers arrived in both Australia and the United States, they found groups of Salvationists already waiting for them.

The Salvation Army's main converts were at first alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes and other "undesirables" not welcomed into polite Christian society, which helped prompt the Booths to start their own church.  The Booths did not include the use of sacraments (mainly baptism and Holy Communion) in the Army's form of worship, believing that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself.  Other beliefs are that Salvationists should completely refrain from drinking alcohol, smoking, taking illegal drugs, and gambling.  

Uniforms have been worn in many forms since the Army's earliest days. The first evangelists of the Christian Mission wore suits of clerical cut, with frock coats, tall hats, and black ties. Women evangelists wore plain dresses and small Quaker-type bonnets.  After the Mission became an Army, it was agreed that a military type uniform should be worn, modelled on Victorian military garb.  The full-time ordained ministers of the organisation were known as Officers and adopted military rank titles according to seniority.  The part-time 'lay' members were called Soldiers.  The Mission-Stations (churches) were therefore called Corps (pronounced "core").  William Booth's original rank of General remains the title given to the international leader of The Salvation Army. 

As The Salvation Army grew rapidly in the late 1800s, it generated opposition in England.  Opponents, grouped under the name of the Skeleton Army, disrupted Salvation Army meetings and gatherings, the usual tactics being the throwing of rocks, rats, and tar, and physical assaults on Salvationists.  Much of this was led by publicans who were losing business due to the Army's opposition to alcohol and targeting of the frequenters of saloons and public houses.

The Salvation Army has grown into a global evangelical movement with extensive social services.  There are more than one million Salvationists and more than 100,000 employees who between them communicate in 175 different languages, offering spiritual counsel, a sense of community and practical support to thousands of people, regardless of race, creed or beliefs.  The Salvation Army continues to help those who are marginalised by society and show God's love to those who are friendless and alone. 

For more information about our beginnings and other fascinating facts, please select here or contact us.

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“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12

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