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Onward Christian Soldiers

Salvation Army believes in “doing the most good”

In 1878, William and Catherine Booth could not have suspected that their mission work in England among the poor, alcoholic and other marginalized people would still be going strong 135 years later in 124 countries under the well-known name of the Salvation Army.

William Booth, born in Nottingham, England, in 1829 was taken out of school at age 13 to become an apprentice pawnbroker. Nevertheless, he was addressing open-air meetings with a Christian message in the poor district of Nottingham by 1844. He became a Methodist minister in 1852 and married Catherine Mumford in 1855.

Catherine was also born in 1829, three months her husband’s senior. Because of her active roles in preaching and teaching and her influence in the founding of the organization, she is known as “the Mother of the Salvation Army.” In a time when women were practically unknown in the professions, Catherine read extensively in theology and learned to write sermons. She published her first pamphlet, a defense of women’s preaching, in 1859. In that same year, she began a Christian outreach to drunkards. Between 1856 and 1868, she bore eight children. She died in 1890. William Booth lived to age 83, dying in 1912. But their work continues today around the world, and even here in Kentucky.

The Central Kentucky Area Services of the Salvation Army extends help, both physically and spiritually, to the disadvantaged. The organization runs a food pantry and clothing bank as well as offering assistance to those having trouble paying rent and utility bills. Emergency disaster services, an early learning center, a music school, a community school and various camps for children and seniors are among the Salvation Army’s many outreach activities. It runs Hanger Lodge, a 152-bed emergency shelter for families and single women. The Lodge offers life-skills instruction, child care and medical care through the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. The Salvation Army reports 48,702 persons received food, clothing and other emergency assistance last year, while 122,844 meals were served to homeless persons in Central Kentucky.

The Salvation Army’s mission statement says it is “an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

Everyone who works for the Salvation Army is called a Salvationist. Lay members who subscribe to the doctrines of the organization are called soldiers. Officers have undergone a two-year intensive training course in residence at one of the four Salvation Army colleges in the United States. After training, cadets are commissioned as lieutenants, ordained as ministers and assigned to active duty while continuing their education. Salvationists wear uniforms for the same reason other service-centered personnel, such as police officers, wear them: for identification. The uniform also serves as a witness to the individual’s faith in God. By putting on the uniform, the officers are publicly sharing their love for and relationship with God and their desire to serve God by serving others. Salvation Army officers must devote full time to Army work. They may marry only another Salvation Army officer or leave his or her officer status.

Since it is organized like an army, the Salvation Army’s top international officer is the general. The current head is Linda Bond, the 19th general in the history of the organization and the third woman. One of William and Catherine Booth’s daughters, Evangeline, was a general, serving from 1934 to 1939. Another woman general was Eva Barrows, who served from 1986 to 1993.

Majors Steven and Debra Ashcraft are the Central Kentucky Area Service coordinators. The Salvation Army is entirely dependent upon donations. Commenting on the fact that donations to the Salvation Army’s famous red kettles were down last year, Debra Ashcraft said, “I firmly believe we have a very compassionate community. Kettle collections are down not because people don’t care but because many are struggling financially. So many people are coming to the food pantry [for free food] who have never come before.” Ashcraft emphasizes that the Salvation Army helps anyone who comes to it without regard to that person’s religious beliefs or affiliation.

The Central Kentucky Area receives gifts of clothing, furniture and nonperishable food items at any of its centers. The Lexington Worship and Service Center is at 736 West Main Street. For information, call (859) 252-7706. The Georgetown Worship and Service Center is at 100 Washington Square; its phone number is (502)-863-1551. The Jessamine County Service Unit is at 205 South First Street, Nicholasville, and can be reached at (859) 881-4241. Worship services are held every Sunday at 11 a.m. at West Main Street and at 6 p.m. in Georgetown. Other weekday and evening activities are available. All meetings and church services are open to everyone in the community. The organization’s Web site is http://www.salvationarmyusa.org.

By Martha Evans Sparks, Staff Writer

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