history of the
Dr. Rebecca Tortello
IN 1865, the same year that Jamaica experienced the Morant Bay Rebellion, England experienced a different kind of revolution a revolution of spirituality. A man named William Booth had an idea. He wanted to form a different kind of army, one that would spread the gospel to the masses. He shared his thoughts with his wife, Catherine, and the Salvation Army, an evangelical movement that would go on to reach millions worldwide, was born.
The head of the Salvation Army is referred to as General while a Salvation Army church is called a "corps" and its minister the 'corps officer'. Officers dress in uniform. The Salvation Army produces a quarterly newspaper, , the magazine All The World, a webzine and an annual yearbook of activities worldwide (http://www.salvationarmycarib.org/www_car.nsf/vw-dynamic-index/7B9621E494CE890B05256DF800532194?openDocument).
THE SALVATION ARMY IN JAMAICA
Jamaica sends an appeal for Salvationists 1885.
This clipping sparked a longstanding involvement in Jamaica the first Caribbean island to embrace Salvationism. Two people were instrumental in this development Mother Agnes Foster, a former slave who was taken from Jamaica to England with her mistress and returned home after 40 years and W. Raglan Phillips, an Englishman who lived in Jamaica as a surveyor, printer and publisher of the Westmoreland Telegraph. Both were converted to Salvationism at different times and both started their own missions, Mother Foster in Kingston and W. Raglan Phillips in Bluefields, Westmoreland. They wrote to William Booth in London to become proper members of his Salvation Army. Two years later, in 1887, their prayers were answered when Booth sent out his pioneer Caribbean party a young family of eight from Manchester, the Daveys. They arrived to "make war on sin and evil in the West Indies," (Hobbs, 1986, p. 1-5).
Mother Foster and Raglan Phillips met their ship and crowds followed them as they made their way along the streets to their new home at 9 Duke Street where a thanksgiving prayer meeting was held. Colonel Davey soon sought permission for the use of a public space from the mayor of Kingston. The mayor, unlike the island's press, was not accommodating and Davey was turned down. The owner of the popular Myrtle Bank hotel, a Mr. Gall, came to the rescue however, offering his lawn for the Salvation Army's opening service on a Sunday, December 18, 1887 at 5 p.m. He described the event in his own publication, Gall's Newsletter as follows: "If Col. Davey preaches doctrine of this kind, we believe there is no planter in the whole island who would not make the Salvation Army welcome on his estate." The Gleaner also described the event in glowing terms: "There is a cleansing fountain ... a very large concourse of people estimated at between four and five thousand ..." and expressed surprise at the lack of rowdiness. Another paper, the Evening Post, however, described the event much less favourably noting that nothing new took place: "it was the same old story of the Cross of Christ crucified ..." (Hobbs, 1986, pp. 7-8).
Before the end of December Gall's Newsletter was advertising nightly open air sessions complete with organ music and drums. Thousands showed up and soon appeared in Jamaica as well for distribution. Salvation Army standards and procedures were duly explained and in less than 4 months, in March 1888, reinforcements had arrived from England. The first Salvation Army Temple on Church St. was ready to be opened. 2000 persons from communities as diverse as Fletcher's Land, Matthew's Lane and St. Andrew packed in to take part. A few months later in May a Salvation Army Corps opened in Spanish Town and in July, the word continued to spread with a launch in Montego Bay. In Bluefields, Westmoreland, Raglan Phillip's people continued the movement reaching out to Black River and Savanna-la-Mar without him as he had relocated to Kingston to assist Colonel Davey and his wife (Hobbs, 1986, pp. 10-12).
THE SALVATION ARMY IN TROUBLE
A year after its establishment in Jamaica, the Salvation Army marked its anniversary by asking General Booth for 50 more officers. To do this, an article, "Jamaica Past and Present" was written in All The World and the 'sins of the Jamaican people' were described in detail in order to present a case for widespread support. Mr. Gall, once a champion of the international religious movement, took offense and denounced the piece extensively in his newsletter. The local press supported his stance and condemned the Army's work. Serious disturbances began breaking out at the Army's Church St. location causing the Daveys to hole up in the building. They were effectively marooned for three days. The Army's work, however, did not stop, but rather continue on a much more subdued scale. Circulation of dropped, personal effects had to be sold to raise funds and Colonel Davey was forced to accept responsibility for the article. He turned to General Booth for help. The General sent him support but things did not improve enough and eventually in early 1889 he decided to withdraw his troops from the island stating that he felt driven to "a resolution such as I have never been under the painful necessity of taking with regard to any other part of the world." The Army's building on Church St. was sold and the troops disbanded (Hobbs, 1986, pp. 14-15).
WESTMORELAND KEEPS THE FLAME OF SALVATIONISM ALIVE
Yet, the fall of Kingston did not mean the fall of the island for the Salvation Army. Country troops continued to grow from strength to strength particularly in Bluefields, Westmoreland where "every soldier wore a uniform and could speak, pray or sing a solo when called upon." In 1890, The War Cry began to be printed again with the Salvation Army listing Bluefields as its place of origin. Soon after General Booth summoned Raglan Phillips to London to plot out the Army's future in Jamaica. Philips was promoted and returned to Jamaica with Major James J. Cooke, an Irish officer chosen by General Booth to recommence Salvation Army work islandwide. It was 1892. This time the Army's work continued unabated as it expanded its reach around the island. Halls were built for worship and a community service ethic was solidified. The island's western parishes became strongholds of Salvationism and many Jamaican men and women had the course of their lives changed dramatically (Hobbs, 1986, pp. 18-30).
The role played by women in the development of the Salvation Army worldwide should not be overlooked. The Salvation Army was one of the first 'armies' to accept women as 'soldiers' and leaders. It was also the first church to give equality to women so it is no surprise that Salvation Army founder General Booth was heard to say "my best men are women" (Interview with Major Denzil Walcott). In many instances in Jamaica, like in other countries, the women were the backbone of the corps overseeing feeding programmes, skills training programmes, schools, health care programmes, etc.
Membership in the Army is as simple as joining a church so it is easy to understand how quickly the Army's evangelical zeal spread throughout the Caribbean: to Guyana (1895), Barbados (1898), Trinidad (1901) and Antigua (1903).
THE EARTHQUAKE OF 1907 THE SALVATION ARMY TO THE RESCUE
On Monday, January 14, 1907, the lives of thousands of Jamaicans would be changed dramatically when an earthquake destroyed much of the capital city, Kingston. The Salvation Army's response was immediate. Trained in how to cope with emergency situations, soldiers were mobilised. They later reported that over 1700 bodies were recovered and more than 20,000 persons rendered homeless. Although the Army lost its headquarters, which by then had moved back to Kingston, it worked hard to provide food, clothing and shelter to those in need. It also provided spiritual solace with its music and preaching (Hobbs, 1986, pp. 31-33). This was the first time the Army rallied to provide much needed support in a time of crisis actions that would be repeated consistently throughout the Army's close to 120 year presence in Jamaica. Today, the Army is well known for providing assistance in the face of disasters, natural or man-made and offering solace to the poor and destitute on a regular basis. In fact, together with the Jamaica Red Cross and the Jamaica Adventist Disaster Relief Agency (ADRA) the Salvation Army forms the first response team in a crisis.
Interestingly, in the 1920s W. Raglan Phillips attempted to found a breakaway group called the Light Brigade. Later known as the City Mission, it shared the Salvation Army's format of a rank system and uniforms although its faith was more Pentecostal. It still exists with a number of members in Jamaica and elsewhere (Senior, 2003, pp. 431-2).
THE SALVATION ARMY TODAY
Today the Salvation Army spreads its mission of joyful worship, fellowship and community service in 109 countries including others in this region Suriname (1926), the Bahamas (1931) and eventually, Haiti (1950), French Guiana (1980) and St Maarten (1999). The Salvation Army is also found in St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Kitts and Nevis which are all aligned with other island territories due to considerations of size and scale. Worldwide, the Salvation Army counts more than one million members and its trademark red shield is easily recognisable as a mark of compassion and work for others. (http://www.salvationarmycarib.org/www_car.nsf/vw-dynamic-index/7B9621E494CE890B05256DF800532194?openDocument).
In Jamaica the Army
counts some 14,000 members, 70 per cent of which are women. It is one
of the strongest Salvationist organizations in the Caribbean region and
the Territorial Headquarters are found at 3 Waterloo Road in Kingston.
Throughout the island the Salvation Army continues its evangelical and
community service missions by running basic schools and day care centres
attached to each church, as well as clinics, children's homes, a school
for the blind, welfare and innovative drug rehabilitation and counseling
programmes, male and female hostels and providing disaster relief when
necessary. It also operates a Ministerial Training College which all Caribbean
Salvationist ministers-to-be must attend. After serving as a cadet in
college, ministers are ordained and known as captains. After 15 years,
they are promoted to major. All other ranks are reserved for Executive
Officers. The Salvation Army funds these programmes through its churches
and its annual Christmas appeal, (with considerable support from Scotiabank)
as well as annual fund-
For more information on, or to offer additional support to, the Salvation Army contact Major Denzil Walcott at 922-0287 or 908-0389. 138 B Orange St.
* If any readers have information regarding the development of aviation in Jamaica please email Rebecca Tortello at email@example.com
A Jamaica Gleaner Feature originally posted May 2, 2006
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