If the true spirit of the holidays is charity, than no organization better exemplifies the Christmas season than the Salvation Army. Founded by a Methodist minister in London’s East End in 1865, the Salvation Army has since become the most prominent Protestant missionary organization and one of the most effective charitable organizations in the world. Their missionary efforts reach out to every corner of the globe. Their presence is especially felt during the holiday season, when countless Salvation Army workers make collections used for the care of the poor of the world.
The Salvation Army was the brainchild of William Booth, a Methodist minister who decided in 1865 that preaching the Gospel was simply not enough of a task for good Christians. Instead he made it his life’s work to reach out to the poor and despairing of the world. By the time of his death the Salvation Army was the most successful Protestant missionary society in the world. During the Victorian period, Salvation Army missionaries made the Christmas season a focal point of their work, both for the collection of donations and for the distribution of money and care to the poor. The sound of their volunteers ringing their bells on the street corners of the world has been a Christmas Institution ever since.
Although the Salvation Army has worked its way out to every corner of the globe, the organization’s spiritual and historical heart will always be London. Among the Salvation Army sites in the city are the Salvation Army World Headquarters and William Booth’s gravesite at Abney Park Cemetery. The Salvation Army International Heritage Center is both a museum of sorts, with exhibits on the history of the organization, including artifacts and photos from a century of missionary activity as well as a research center.
The Salvation Army International Heritage Center is located on Queen Victoria Street in the heart of the City of London. It is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30am-3:30pm. There is no charge for admission, but there may be fees for using the research facilities. Also, for those who come to London early in the Christmas season and are lucky enough to procure a ticket, the International Salvation Army band and choir perform a single annual concert at Royal Albert Hall. See the Salvation Army website for details. Web: www.salvationarmy.org.uk (official website of the Salvation Army)