Salvation Army in Wales looking good after 140 years

Published 25 March 2014  |  

You might like to know that Byddin yr Iachawdwriaeth is 140 year old this year. Not a dreadful spelling error but the name given to the Salvation Army in Wales. Recent celebrations were held to mark this birthday, when Territorial Leaders Commissioners Clive and Marianne Adams helped celebrate this milestone with fellow Salvationists during a two-day event in Port Talbot. The Commissioners marked the church and charity's history in Wales by remembering the work of the first corps, in Cardiff, and celebrating the progress made in the years that have followed.

It all began on November 11, 1874, at the People's Hall on Bute Street, near the city's docks. The worshipping corps was started by Christian Missionary John Allen. That was followed by corps at nearby Stuart Hall and later in Ely to the east of Cardiff. In 1877, Cardiff Roath Temple was opened before Merthyr Tydfil corps was established a year later.

This was a period of great religious fervour across Wales. American evangelist, Dwight L Moody was packing out his revival meetings across the UK and the Salvation Army was making an impact in Wales with its mixture of fervent preaching and social concern. Its success in the nation was probably attributed to a number of factors.

At the top of the list must have been its appeal to contemporary culture. In style and speech, here was a network that spoke the language of the time and used popular tunes as the soundtrack to its burgeoning hymnody. It also addressed the social issues of the day, particularly poverty and alcoholism.

Its leadership model was and remains unusual. Modelling itself on the army, there were endless vocational possibilities for the young people candidating to join their ranks. And unlike virtually every other denomination, women were positively encouraged to join and serve as leaders. They preached, led teams and were in the vanguard of many of the movement's pioneering initiatives. In short The Salvation Army was a breath of fresh air in the heavy industrial heartlands, especially in South Wales.

Like all the other church networks working in Wales, The Salvation Army has witnessed steep numerical decline since the heady days of the Victorian era, but its emphasis on practical Christian concern has gained the organisation many friends and an affection not generally granted to churches.

Major Derek Jones, Divisional Leader of The Salvation Army in South and Mid Wales, praised the heritage and history of The Salvation Army in Wales, saying: "From Tenby in the west, to Newport in the east, Rhyl on the north coast and even work in Cardiff Bay, you'll find Salvationists working and witnessing to their Saviour Jesus Christ in many ways and different times.
"Over the decades we have adapted to the changing needs of society but throughout that time we have remained dedicated to caring for people who are vulnerable or in need in every community.
"We have been active in over eighty communities in the 140 years and even now endeavour to make our places of worship environments where people can encounter kindness and a chance to meet with God.
"We are there when you need us, offering compassionate support, lively worship, a listening ear and practical help. Many people recognise The Salvation Army for our practical and social work. But our motivation is to reflect the love of God in our lives into others' lives."

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