This past weekend, folks flocked to the local Salvation Army church and the Memorial Centre for major events to mark the ministry’s 100th anniversary in Red Deer.
Special events included a visit by Salvation Army national territorial leaders (Commissioners Brian and Rosalie Peddle) and a concert on Saturday evening featuring the Salvation Army’s Canadian staff band. There was also an anniversary dinner last Friday evening at the church. Rounding out the weekend, a special Sunday morning worship service was held as well. The Peddles were featured guests along with Major Ron Millar, divisional commander.
Brian has served around the world in a number of capacities, most recently taking on leadership of the Canadian and Bermuda territory. “I was introduced to the Army in a small community in Newfoundland, and the journey just went from there. I think it was the excitement of the meetings, the worship, the youth activities and the places where I could just plug in and feel good about being there,” he explains of his attraction to the SA.
Millar grew up in the Salvation Army; his parents being SA officers. They served in a number of places, including Hong Kong. “My first memories of life are there,” he said. “I went there when I was two years old.” Other locations of ministry over the years have included Bermuda, Canada, Australia and in Jamaica.
Indeed, it’s a significant year for the Salvation Army – besides marking the centennial of the ministry in Red Deer, 2012 is also the 100th anniversary of the death of founder William Booth and the 130th anniversary of the Army’s ministry in Canada. The first official meeting was held in Red Deer on July 6th, 1912.
The first Commanding Officer of the Red Deer Corp was Ensign Pearce, who was appointed on July 7th, 1912. A succession of officers have come and gone over the decades as the church continued to grow and new ministries were established.
“I’m fascinated by the theme that the local Salvation Army has adopted for the weekend – a continuation of service of ‘heart to God, hand to man’,” says Brian. “I think it’s wonderful to retain that focus – that’s our DNA. That’s what God has raised us up to be. And the way the corps has found it appropriate to represent that in this community is great. There are wonderful expressions of ‘heart to God, hand to man’ that are very active on a day-to-day basis here. I think that’s what we are here to celebrate.”
“I want to celebrate the work, commitment and dedication – our ethos and the essence of who we are and who we have been. Although we have changed, and need to continually change our approach in delivery of service, our DNA has never changed. That’s what I want to celebrate – who we are and what we do. The Salvation Army exists to share the love of Christ and be a transforming influence in the communities of our world.”
The very beginnings of the Salvation Army extends back to founder William Booth’s vision of ministry in the poverty-stricken east end of London, England. Booth spent years as a Methodist minister throughout England, and eventually returned to London with his family. He found himself burdened by the state of the masses. London’s east end was known for excruciating poverty and alcoholism.
He formed ‘The Christian Mission’ which was changed in 1878 to the Salvation Army. By the time Booth died the Army was at work in 58 countries. Today, the Army is working in about 120 countries.
Studying the lives of those early pioneers – the Booths and the faithful helpers who worked alongside them in those days – is an inspiration in and of itself. That early dedication honed a trust in the Army that is alive and well today.
“Every three seconds of every day, somebody walks through the door of a Salvation Army looking for a word of encouragement or a response to a very practical need or a spiritual need,” said Brian. “That makes a huge dent in the mass population of Canada. And if it isn’t the individual saying to me ‘You’ve helped me in the past’, they know someone the Salvation Army has helped. I think that’s why people keep giving because we keep telling stories of what happens when you treat people with dignity.”
Millar said the legacy of the Army also fuels the reputation the ministry enjoys today. “We are stewards of this wonderful trust that the public has that has been built over several generations.
“I hope that when my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren look back on my generation, they will say that this generation managed that trust and confidence well.”
Today, the Red Deer Salvation Army Community Services offers a range of services from emergency grocery and clothing assistance, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, summer camps and pastoral care counseling to emergency social services and referrals.
“My dream would be to continue to be the faith-based, Christian organization that delivers to the needs of our ever-changing society in a way that honours the God we love and serve.”