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The Salvation Army began as a ministry to the unchurched in 1865, when a former Methodist minister named William Booth began to preach in the slums of London's East End. One day he found himself in the East End of London, preaching to crowds of people in the streets. Outside the Blind Beggar pub some missioners heard him speaking and were so impressed by his powerful preaching that they asked him to lead a series of meetings they were holding in a large tent.
The tent was situated on an old Quaker burial ground on Mile End waste in Whitechapel. The date for the first meeting was set for July 2, 1865. To the poor and wretched of London's East End, Booth brought the good news of Jesus Christ and his love for all men. Booth soon realized he had found his destiny. He, with the help of his wife Catherine, formed a new movement, which he called "The Christian Mission".
William Booth's original aim had been to send his converts along to the established churches of the day. Nowhere in his plans was there an intention to commence another Christian church. But he soon found that many of his converts would not go to church as they were not made welcome. They could not afford a special Sunday suit and many of the regular church-goers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, evil-smelling people came to join them in worship. The poor soon got the message that they were not wanted and did not return.
Early one morning in May 1878 Booth summoned his son, Bramwell, and his good friend, George Railton, to read the proofs of the Christian Mission's Annual Report. Its preliminary statement read: “THE CHRISTIAN MISSION IS A VOLUNTEER ARMY”
Bramwell strongly objected to this statement, saying he was not a volunteer for he felt compelled by God to do what he had to do. There was also the suggestion that the members could be compared with the "Volunteers" who were part-time soldiers in Queen Victoria's forces - and the source of much ridicule and mockery. In a moment of inspiration Booth crossed out the word "Volunteer" and wrote "Salvation". Thus, The Salvation Army was born.
The new name appealed to Booth's followers who had become increasingly militant. Numbers grew rapidly as members called themselves soldiers or referred to themselves as Booth's "lieutenants" or "captains". The Army's newspaper became The War Cry and prayers became "knee drill". Booth himself was known by his followers as "General". Uniform was introduced, a flag was designed and the military spirit soon spread overseas changing the lives of men and women all over the world. Although an Army with military terms, The Salvation Army is a Christian army of peace, offering hope and new life to those who will accept Jesus into their lives.
Now at work in 106 countries where it maintains religious and social service centers, including schools and hospitals, officers and soldiers preach the gospel in over 136 languages. The Salvation Army continues to fight sin and evil in the lives of men, its only "weapons" the love of God and his message of peace to all mankind.