Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Changing Face of a Faithful Old Friend; DURING Its Annual Appeal, FRANCESCA CRAGGS Looks at the Changing Face of the Salvation Army in Newcastle

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Changing Face of a Faithful Old Friend; DURING Its Annual Appeal, FRANCESCA CRAGGS Looks at the Changing Face of the Salvation Army in Newcastle

Article excerpt

Byline: FRANCESCA CRAGGS

THE aroma of African food fills the air. African children run into the arms of their Geordie godparents, and there are smiles all round.

It's a far cry from the brassplaying, soup-donating, image we have of The Salvation Army. Yet, thanks to the growing cul tural diversity within its congregation, this is just a typical day in the life of the Newcastle centre.

Since relocating from its 118-year site at The City Temple on Westgate Road to the Brunswick Methodist Church off Northumberland Street, The Salvation Army has seen a rise in members who have sought asylum from the likes of Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon.

And, according to Major Antony Mugford, minister of The Salvation Army in Newcastle for the past five years, the church is embracing the change.

"The feel of the place is different. We have a true multicultural mix of people. You can sense the friendship within the congregation. "We are a church that wants to be inclusive of everybody without discrimination and aim to express our faith in a lively, yet practical way.

"The congregation here are very much concerned about the needs of the community.

"It's wonderful to see how people from different countries have been welcomed with open arms. They have really taken them into their hearts.

"We have African food nights and there's always lots of smiles and laughter. Some of the congregation, including myself, are also godparents to the children."

In recent years, the church has increasingly offered pastoral and practical support to many of the city's refugees.

As well as attending their court hearings, The Salvation Army offers guidance by providing a visible church presence by their side.

Major Mugford, whose wife Fiona is also a minister at the church, feels there are many misconceptions surrounding asylum seekers.

"People have the impression that asylum seekers just want to live off the State, however, this simply isn't true.

" In reality, they want to be part of the community and contribute to society. "Despite being in Newcastle they are still living in extreme poverty. …

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