The History of the Salvation Army
In 1865, William Booth and his wife, Catherine Booth founded The Christian Revival Society or the Christian Mission. This was an organization committed to helping the poorest and most neglected of the East End of London. It involved giving food, shelter, and clothes, but also seeking to save people spiritually. At the time, there were many similar religious organizations committed to helping the poor, and offering aid to try and educate people into religious salvation. It was hard work, as the Christian missionaries often faced hostility from local people, who derided their evangelizing. Booth and his wife struggled to raise sufficient funds to keep the mission going, but they never gave up and remain committed to serving the poor in the heart of the poorest areas in London.
The rise in the poor came courtesy of the American Civil War, as it caused a disturbance in trade, which in turn caused a rise in unemployment. This rise in poverty persuaded Booth to enhance his preaching. He set out to deliver “God’s” word to the masses. Booth’s hopes were to convert many to Christianity and to link them to a church for further spiritual guidance. He also believed the duty of his organization was to provide employment, housing, feeding and generally bring about the betterment of the poor and the redemption of those outcast, its greatest contribution to the world’s advancement in this direction has surely been its insistence upon the principle that salvation of the soul is the key to salvation of the body.
To complete this endeavor, Booth set out to get help from others within the community of London. These followers were called evangelists and would assist Booth with preaching salvation to the poor and outcast. These evangelists, however, were actually some of the poor that Booth had converted. He challenged them to save others from themselves.
By 1867, Booth had 10 full-time workers, but by 1874, the number had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists, all serving under the name "The Christian Mission." Booth assumed the title of general superintendent, with his followers calling him "General." Known as the "Hallelujah Army," the converts spread out of the East End of London into neighboring areas and then to other cities.
Hallelujah Army was not a term widely associated with Booth’s Christian Mission, but the term, “volunteer army” was. The volunteer moniker was used in 1878 on a printer’s proof of the Christian Missions report and appeal leaflet that was to be disseminated to citizens of London. The leaflet called the Christian Mission a Volunteer Army, but Booth did not like that his mission was called this, as he told his secretary George Railton, “We are not volunteers, as we feel we must do what we do and we are always on duty.” When Booth said this, he scratched out Volunteer from the leaflet and wrote Salvation in its place.
This was the beginnings of the Salvation Army. It has grown exponentially since Booth and Catherine set out to help the poor and destitute in London.