The History Behind the Salvation Army - and Its Bell Ringers

By Kristina Lanier, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 8, 1998 | Go to article overview

The History Behind the Salvation Army - and Its Bell Ringers


Kristina Lanier, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Among the lasting images of the holiday season, along with colored lights and crowded malls, are The Salvation Army's omnipresent bell ringers.

You probably do your part at least once, plunking your change into a red kettle on your way out of a store. But do you really know where the money goes?

Actually, The Salvation Army has a long history of social work - from thrift stores to disaster relief and day care. It got its start as a religious organization in London and remains one today - though it's more widely known for its worldwide social services. (The Salvation Army has programs in more than 100 countries.) William Booth, who started as a pawnbroker and ended up a minister, founded The Salvation Army in 1865 in London's poverty- stricken East End. He preached regularly on the streets, finding a following in the East End. His street-corner sermons grew into regular meetings and out of it came The Salvation Army's first incarnation, "The Christian Mission." As the movement attracted more followers, Booth changed the name to The Salvation Army, based on the idea of a Christian "army" fighting sin. …

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