In the East End of London, a resurgence led by preacher William Booth and his wife Catherine birthed the Christian Mission, which later evolved into the Salvation Army. Their determination was to combat poverty and religious apathy with the efficiency of a military operation, a vision that inspired them to shape their Methodist denomination akin to the British army. They designated ordained ministers as “officers” and newcomers as “recruits.”
The Christian Mission, endorsing gender equality by assigning equal ranks to women, initiated “campaigns” in London’s most desolate neighborhoods. The establishment of soup kitchens marked the beginning of numerous projects aimed at offering tangible and spiritual aid to the poor. Early reactions in Britain were mixed, with many criticizing the Christian Mission’s methods, leading to members being penalized and incarcerated for disturbing peace.
In 1878, the organization was rechristened as the Salvation Army, and the first U.S. branch was inaugurated in Pennsylvania two years later. During tough times such as the Great Depression, the Salvation Army extended food and shelter to those in need and served the armed forces commendably during both world wars. Over time, it earned recognition as a significant global charity.
Nowadays, the Salvation Army, with its headquarters remaining in London, has extended its reach to over 75 countries. The Army administers a broad array of services, including evangelical centers, hospitals, disaster relief services, rehabilitation programs for alcohol and drug addicts, community and social work centers, secondhand stores, and recreation facilities. The organization is primarily funded by voluntary donations and the revenue from its publication sales.
Founded on July 5, 1865, the Salvation Army celebrates its 158th year.