THE SALVATION ARMY
THE SALVATION ARMY IN AMMANFORD
The Salvation Army has been a familiar sight in our towns and cities for as long anyone can remember. Often accompanied by their own brass band and tambourine-shaking followers, its members are distinctive in their black military-style uniforms, the men sporting peaked hats and the women in their more demure bonnets. The 'soldiers' are familiar enough, too, in the pubs and streets of the land, rattling their collection tins while they sell the Army's newspaper, the War Cry. In the larger cities, with their greater social problems, they also run hostels and soup-kitchens for the homeless, drug addicts and alcoholics. The basic social services developed by their founder, William Booth, in London's East End in the nineteenth century have remained an outward visible expression of the Army's strong religious principles. In addition to the major social problems the Army tackled in the nineteenth century such as poverty, alcoholism, prostitution, child labour, and many, many others, new programmes that address contemporary needs have been established. Among these are disaster relief services, day care centres, summer camps, holiday assistance, services for the aging, AIDS education, residential services, medical facilities, shelters for battered women and children, family and career counselling, vocational training, correction services, and substance abuse rehabilitation. More than 30 million people a year are aided in some form by services provided by the Salvation Army.
Blood and Fire: the Salvation Army's ferocious motto
Ammanford may not have its Salvation Army hostels but it does have a Citadel, as their church halls are called, the name continuing the military theme of the organisation (a citadel is a fortress protecting a town). Everything to do with the Salvation Army, in fact, uses military imagery, reflecting the belief that they are engaged in a mortal battle against the Devil and his forces. Each church branch is called a Corps, a corps being the main subdivision of an army in the field. The staff hierarchy within the Army is named after military ranks - sergeant, captain, major, and so on, with the supreme leader of this world-wide organisation, located in London where the Army was born, bearing the title of General.
Tucked away unpretentiously on land to the rear of Margaret Street (on what was at one time scheduled to become a future access road for further development of land), is Ammanford's Citadel, or Church, of the Salvation Army, a modern building constructed in 1995 and extended in 2000.
The Army's initial association with Ammanford goes back further than this however, to the 'Crusaders' from Swansea, Neath, Llanelli, Gorseinon and other neighbouring centres, who regularly visited the Amman Valley area to hold open-air street meetings. By all accounts these were lively and stimulating events which encouraged a dedicated and enthusiastic band of local supporters to establish the Ammanford Corps on 5th May 1921, organised within the Swansea Division.
The first meetings of Ammanford Corps were in the open air, but the unpredictable weather conditions led to all kinds of difficulties in sustaining meetings on a regular basis, so eventually the Corps turned their attention to acquiring their own premises. A vacant church property in Margaret Street (now the Catholic Church) was first investigated, but the cost proved to be prohibitive, so a vacant plot just off Margaret Street, behind the houses on the way to the current Amman Valley Comprehensive and the leisure centre, was purchased instead. Of course, a hall now had to built on this site, and improvisation was necessary in order to achieve this with a limited budget. In 1926, a large timber framed, corrugated iron sheeted building at the rear of the Palace Cinema, measuring 90 by 21 feet and used as a boxing gymnasium, became available. This was dismantled and a section of 50 feet was secured and re-erected on the Margaret Street site. This became the Army's Citadel/Church for over 60 years until the new building in 1995.
It was not the most ostentatious of buildings compared with the architectural splendour of some of Ammanford's other places of worship, but at least it was a shelter, a home, and a place of worship. The Salvation Army has never embraced pomposity, their principle being that people hold priority over earthly, material grandeur, and it is a tribute to their commitment that they are still here in Ammanford where other, much larger, churches have fallen by the wayside. Or is it a sad reflection on our society, more advanced in some ways but less so in others, that we still provide plenty of work for the Salvation Army to do?
As well as being the location for Sunday services, the Citadel is in use most days of the week for youth activities, Bible studies and a lunch club for over sixties, all maintained by a regular Sunday congregation of just over 40. Ammanford Salvation Army also provides:
Emergency Accommodation (as and when required) Emergency Food Parcels (as and when required) 2 Charity Shops (Ammanford & Llandeilo) Nursing Home ministry (monthly) Day Care Centre Visitation (monthly) Schools ministry [RE classes, PSE classes, School Assembly] (as and when required)
Internationally The Salvation Army is at work in 111 countries, involved in global disaster relief, for example 9/11, Tsunami, Afghanistan, Iraq, as well as national disaster relief for London bombings and Boscastle flooding. It is the aim of The Salvation Army to work and minister wherever human need exists, helping everyone irrespective of race, colour, sex, religion or age.
(Thanks are due to the current Minister, David Williamson, for some of the above information.)
HISTORY OF THE SALVATION ARMY MOVEMENT
The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian evangelical denomination and, more famously, a charity and social services organization, with international headquarters at 101 Queen Victoria Street London, England.
The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth in London in 1865 as an Evangelical movement called the Christian Revival Association. It then changed its name to East London Christian Mission. After starting the work outside the East End, the name changed to The Christian Mission. William Booth resigned as a New Connexion Methodist minister because the New Connexion attempted to shackle his emerging ministry.
In 1878, the name was changed to the Salvation Army and a quasi-military outlook was adopted. On March 10, 1880, Commissioner George Scott Railton and seven young women landed in the USA and began operations.
The Salvation Army's main converts were at first alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes and other "undesirables" of society with whom the Church refused to have any association. As a result of Booth's pragmatic approach to ministry, they decided not to include the use of sacraments (mainly baptism and Holy Communion) in the Army's form of worship, believing that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself. William and his wife Catherine Booth believed in the teachings of Apostle Paul, that salvation came solely from the grace of God personally received by faith. They felt that much of what passed for Christianity in their day was primarily an observance of outward ritual.
Among the other long-established beliefs of the Salvation Army are that its members should completely refrain from drinking alcohol (teetotalism), smoking, taking illegal drugs and gambling.
The Salvation Army grew rapidly, and as it did it created friction among certain people within the society. These people, grouped under the name of the Skeleton Army, hired thugs to disrupt Salvation Army meetings and gatherings, the usual tactics being the throwing of rocks, rats, and tar, and physically assaulting members of the Salvation Army.
The mission of the Salvation Army is to win the world for Jesus. General Booth, the Army founder, explained, "Salvationism means simply the overcoming and banishing from the earth of wickedness." The Salvation Army has from its founding been uncompromisingly opposed to what it sees as sin. Their idea of wickedness is based on their belief in the inerrancy of the Christian Bible.
At the turn of the 21st century the Salvation Army has grown to operate in over 100 countries. The phrase "With heart to God, and hand to man" was its focus and its driving goal during that time. In the United Kingdom, The Salvation Army became the second largest provider, after the government, of social welfare. In the UK the usual affectionate name is the "Sally Army."
As the popularity of the organization grew and Salvationists worked their way through the streets of London attempting to convert individuals, they were sometimes confronted with unruly crowds. A family of musicians, named the Frys, began working with the Army as their "bodyguards" and played music to distract the crowds.
The tradition of having musicians available continued, and eventually grew into the creation of true bands. Their musical groups, usually a brass band or smaller collection of brass instruments, are seen in public at Army campaigns, as well as at other festivals, parades and at Christmas. The Salvation Army also has choirs; these are known as Songster Brigades, and these normally comprise of the traditional SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass) singers. The Premier Songster Brigade in the Salvation Army is the International Staff Songsters (ISS).
The standard of playing is usually high and the Army operates bands at the international level, such as the International Staff Band, which are the equal of professional ensembles, though they do not participate in the brass band contest scene. Many professional brass players and contesting brass band personnel have come up through The Salvation Army, and in some cases continue to maintain links, such as Philip Smith, principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic, who still plays and records quite often with the Army's New York Staff Band.
Depending on the size, Salvation Army Corps (churches) have brass bands that enhance Sunday services by accompanying the congregation in the singing of hymns and/or during "Praise and Worship" times set aside during the service. Those corps without a sufficient number of proficient musicians may use either a piano accompanist or other live musician accompaniment as available. Where no musicians are available, corps will often use CD's or cassettes to fill those roles.
Sources: Ammanford: Origin of street names and notable historic records; WTH Locksmith, 2001. E-Mail from the current Minister David Williamson, dated 24th February 2006. Other material retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvation_Army
Date this page last updated: October 1, 2010