A SOCIAL media 'Thunderclap' and coffee morning marked Founders' Day celebrations at The Salvation Army's International Headquarters (IHQ) in London, UK. On 2 July 1865, 149 years ago, the Rev William Booth and his wife Catherine began the ministry in poverty-stricken east London that would become today's Salvation Army, with its presence in 126 countries.
A coffee morning was held at IHQ to celebrate the special day – and the fact that it is now less than a year until the Army's 150th birthday. The event raised funds for the Mind the Gap campaign to allow delegates from developing countries to attend the international congress, Boundless – The Whole World Redeeming, in London next July.
Special guest General André Cox was introduced by the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner William Roberts) as the 'most recent successor to William Booth'.
General Cox paid tribute to General Booth's passion and tenderness, but also his wholehearted seeking after 'genuine fire' from God's altar. He told the people gathered that he could sense the excitement mounting ahead of next year's 150th anniversary celebrations, but added the challenge: 'If The Salvation Army is to go on serving after 150 years it will be because we serve with a passion and with an undivided heart.'
Comparing today's Salvation Army to men of Israel – as recorded in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy – who were told to go home if they were not fully committed to the battle, the General said: 'We need to be a people who will serve wholeheartedly.' He gave the assurance that, in his travels, he has seen that 'the fire of the Holy Spirit still burns brightly within this Army,' but concluded with a challenge worthy of the Founder himself: 'It's all or nothing if we want to win this war.'
The event began with an introduction from Lieut-Colonel Eddie Hobgood (International Congress Coordinator), dressed as early-day Salvationist Joe the Turk. Before presenting a new video about the history of international congresses, the colonel promised that, at Boundless 2015, 'we're going to celebrate in great style'.
The colonel was not the only person wearing unusual clothes. A number of IHQ staff and officers marked Founders' Day, and celebrated The Salvation Army's internationalism, by wearing national dress or their national uniform.
Music was provided by the IHQ Lunchtime Gospel Choir, which includes personnel from IHQ alongside workers from nearby businesses. The group concluded its presentation with a version of the Founder's Song – 'O Boundless Salvation!' – to the tune of John Denver's 'Annie's Song'.
That was not the only singing of the Founder's Song, however, as the gathering concluded with everyone present joining together for a wholehearted rendition of the song to its more-familiar, traditional tune.
As well as the physical gathering for Founders' Day, IHQ had set up a 'Thunderclap' to mark the occasion, asking Salvationists and friends from around the world to join in through their social media platforms. The result was a resounding success, with the Thunderclap going off just after noon, sharing a message about The Salvation Army's 149th birthday with more than 800,000 people.
Report by Kevin Sims