I remember sitting at WBC (William Booth College in London) at a lecture given by the leader of the methodists of England, he said that the only thing that gives a religious movement it’s right of existence is the “charism of the founder”. In other words, whatever it was that god gave William Booth that was different, that is the reason for TSA continued existence.
As I reflect on the question why TSA? I find myself reflecting on all those great things that was part of the early army.
William Booth had a calling, a vision to proclaim the kingdom of God. He did so not in a measured or controlled way, but he went all out, he held nothing back. I think this is at least one of the reasons the movement became so successful, Booths unrelenting, unbridled passion.
The early army had a very anything goes and whatever works attitude. They where willing to try anything to make the good news heard. The importance here was not political correctness, doctrinal adherence or even dignity. Undignified, loud and raucous, TSA marched on not caring what anybody else thought. No, whatever allowed the good news of gods love to be heard was employed to get the job done.
This influenced every early decision in TSA from the wearing of uniforms to our sacramental view.
There is even an account of an officer to be who came to the founder and said “I wan’t to serve the army in america, but I have a problem with one of the points in the covenant”, to which Booth replied: Which one? And then promptly crossed it out and sent the newly commissioned officer over seas.
The same view was employed in the choice of music and informed the famous “Why should the devil have all the good music?” quote.
This pragmatism also allowed Booth to put unprecedented faith in young people both America and Australia was opened by officers under eighteen. The early army was an unstoppable messy youth movement and could be so by not being hindered by bureaucracy or sticking to any given ruleset.
This pragmatism was of course fuelled by Booths passion for and deep love of god and people.
Hearts to god and hands to men
Because of Booths grounding on earth and the here and now it was never a philosofical or intellectual faith but the dirty messy faith of going into the darkest most neglected places to spread light and love.
In Sweden today we have a slogan that goes “Faith is only half of the truth” and lines up neatly with William Booths “heart to god and hands to men”. We may have our hearts set on god and godly things (treasures in heaven) but our bodies remain here and here we will build gods kingdom for god to return to!
“Go for souls and go for the least”, everyone and anyone was welcome in TSA, and this really hits home. At Christmas the various churches in London would go out on the highways and byways to claim their own. The methodist would welcome all methodist, the anglicans would welcome all anglicans, and TSA would welcome all who had nowhere else to go.
The statement that “whosoever will may be saved” means just that! TSA is all about the whosoever and the other. The ones that no one else would touch even with a remote control (sorry, bit of an inside joke).
This is my army
I know that there are other things that where part of the early army, but these are my points that I love about the early movement and the movement we could be! I see a vision of a new Salvation Army that has rekindled this passionate and radical way of life!