For the launch of `Greenlove', which heralds Woolwich Online's Discovery Missions, we called at The Salvation Army, Plumstead on Sunday, 22nd September, 2013. This journey, as we would discover was to be an eye-opener of a sort into the activities of this movement.
The journey was smooth and uninterrupted and by the time the `train' glided to a stop, I was half an hour late due to information mix-up. I quietly took my seat at the nearest vacant chair on the back row.
Founded by William Booth in 1865, The Salvation Army has become a global movement, spreading from East London in England, to many parts of the world. It is currently working in about 126 countries in which the demonstrates Christian principles in practical ways, supporting and offering unconditional friendship and help to people of all ages, backgrounds and needs.
The Salvation Army's current global leader is General Andre, elected only in August, this year.
It's members are called Salvationists. It adopted a quasi-military command structure since 1878 and the title, ‘The Salvation Army’, brought into use.
While the movement is all welcoming in line with their mission statement and core beliefs, its Officer Corps are `checked' by strict rules to which they must pledge and abide by. These include an undertaking not to smoke, drink, gamble or indulge in imorality and more..
The Salvation Army comprises of three units in one - a Charity, a Church and a Movement. It is guided by it's Faith Creed which reads thus..
[ "The Salvation Army is a Christian organisation and part of the universal Christian Church....Its message and the lifestyle it advocates are based on the Bible's teaching. Its work is to make known the good news about Jesus Christ and to persuade people to become his followers." ]
The Faith is also explained further thus..
[ "Everything The Salvation Army does is rooted in the faith of its members. The confidence Salvationists have in a loving and caring God, finds outward expression in their love for humanity and their practical response to human need." ]
Though an establishment with a global reach, operations of Movements are localised to the unique needs of their host communities, ensuring that they are able to guage, understand, adapt and respond to the requirements of those communities accordingly.
For this reason, in 2007, the Plumstead Movement articulated its Mission Statement as follow:
[ "..We will authentically love God, empower people to grow with Jesus and transform our community by establishing the Kingdom of God." ]
The core values on which the Mission Statement is supported are that:
[ "The Plumstead Corps of the Salvation Army is a place where individuals are valued and respected for who they are and are not judged on the basis of their religion, colour, gender or sexuality."
[ "We will promote, encourage and empower people to be courageous, trusting, faithful, supportive, caring and adaptable in their faith and lifestyle. The church is focused on living in a way that allows God to use it to transform the lives of people and build the Kingdom of God in Plumstead. ]
[ "We will work in partnership withother agencies to ensure that the needs of people are met in a way that is relevant to them and yet still show the love of God in practical ways." ]
The above core values were reappraised in August 2013, to ensure that they are still working in consonance with the needs of the local community.
The Movement did this by asking members who attend church at the Plumstead Hall, to state what they thought the core/corps values should be, in 2013.
"What do we value about being here?" The question asked.
The responses ranged from "life, valuing each other, prayer, faith, God's love, Community Spirit, Acceptance and to be accepted, to family, fun and enjoyment, giving salvation to people in need and guiding them, as well as valuing the Name of Jesus."
From August 2013, The Plumstead Movement's focus is on Children and families, colleagues, friends, visitors to our houses, our families and neighbours, people who have not experienced friendship with God, people in need further affield around the world, lonely and isolated people, people who are poor or have housing problems, people who have no food, older people and the community around the Hall.
The Lieutenant couple in charge of the Plumstead Hall are Guy and Nicola Davies. I met the man for the first time on Wednesday 18th, Sept., 2013.
During church service, the Message was entitled "God's Forgiveness Mission".
The preacher recalled the story of Jonah, sent by God to deliver a message to the city of Nineveh, but who wanted to do it his way. Until God forced him by causing a shipwreck, throwing him overboard and into the mouth of hungry whale, which swallowed him, felt disturbed and headed to Nineveh, where it vomitted Jonah out.
Using graphical illustrations to explain the different stages of Jonah's dilemna, she said "..we are all Messengers of Grace, to give people of all places the opportunity to change. To spread the Word of Grace."
She said "...we should strive to relate more to Jonah's message and recognise that we might not have been as nice as we are expected to be."
The preacher said that Christians must be able to remember Christ's answer to the Question of how many times we must take (accommodate) injustice before we can forgive. When asked the question, `how many times do I have to forgive before I can stop and seek revenge?', Jesus had answered that Christians must be ready to forgive, not 7 times, but 77 x 7.
She said the latest terrorist attack on a Shopping Mall in Kenya, which claimed over 60 lives; women who let their children die in hunger, only to continue to collect benefit with his name; a world in which a third eat and even waste the excess food, when the rest suffer hunger elsewhere; are some of the unGodlike ways that Christians must strive to change.
We sing the concluding song "I dare to be Different".
And then recite "I Dare To Want To Live Like Christ" as follow:
"I dare to want to live like Christ, According to his will and ways, His love toknow, Compassion share, And serve him boldly everyday. Amen!"
After the service I meet the Corps Leutenant, Mr Guy Davies, for interview even as the tables were quickly rearranged and set for a love feast. Soon every was seated around same table eating and chatting.
I asked him to explain to me how the regular Sunday meals work. How are they financed - on a regular basis? He says the principle and method were simple. People come to the Hall for Church service on Sunday bearing the feast in mind.
They bring whatever they can afford - from loaves of bread to Pies, Tommatoes and Puddings, Custard, Yoghurt, Butter and Milk, fish chunks or sardines. They put these into the fridge located in the nearby kitchen, and attend church. After service, these are brought out, prepared and served for a group round table meal.
Some of the ways The Salavation Army helps out their respective communities include digging gardens, painting walls, picking litter, packing shopping bags, washing cars, unpacking moving crates and visiting residential homes, feeding the hungry and lonely and supporting the foodbank network.
They get a list of preferred items for donation from the foodbank, so it is wise to provide the kind of help that is actually needed.
A large establishment, The Salvation Army's opertion in UK and Ireland currently has around 50,000 members, 4,000 employees, 1,500 Salvation Army officers on full-time ministerial duty.
To respond to and make the needed difference in the lives of people experiencing crises, the Salvation Army works in partnership with many agencies, providing relief and making life better for others.
Such agencies include the Red Cross, The Food Bank, Boys Scouts and several other Relief Agencies. Their work touch lives of people in need both directly and indirectly and assistance is always accepted and appreciated.
Volunteers are also always needed and are welcome to help out with many of the regular and special events they organise including Community Cafe, Friday House Grup, Craft Club, Comunity Meal and Quiz Night, Corps Anniversary, Prposed Afternoon Harvest Service at Lakeview Court, Harvest Supper and Pick of the Pops Social, Christmas Dinner for Social Services Referrals and those alone).
If you can help, please contact your local Salvation Army Corps. If you are in Woolwich, Thamesmead or the surrounding areas, please contact the London South East Division of The Salvation Army Corps, Plumstead as follow:
White Hart Road, off Plumstead High Street, London, SE18 1DW. Tel. 020 8312 5890 and 020 8854 0069 (Corps Officers).
If you go, feel free to ask from the Lieutenant in charge what ways you can support the movement. You may be surprised at just how little you actually need to do to help.
* Twitter: @bensonagoha.