Monday, 22 September 2014

William Booth on Christian Community

It's not good enough to see people who have lived lives of vice and serious sin saved in church only expect them to be respectable 'Sunday Christians' like us, sending them 'home' to places of temptation until our next church meeting.  If we are to see people grow strong in the faith we need to set up structures that enable people to be protected.  This involves personal sacrifice.  Such as?
  • Opening our homes, taking in single people and being a family to them
  • Setting up 'safe houses'
  • Christian households purposely living in close proximity and spending mealtimes with each other
  • Adopting children
  • Caring for sick, elderly and disabled people among us.

Here are some of Booth's thoughts on these things...

Secondly: The remedy, to be effectual, must change the circumstances of the individual when they are the cause of his wretched condition, and lie beyond his control. Among those who have arrived at their present evil plight through faults of self-indulgence or some defect in their moral character, how many are there who would have been very differently placed to-day had their surroundings been otherwise?

The Army's Founder was able to testify that these methods were effective:

And here let me say that it is a great delusion to imagine that in the riffraff and waste of the labour market there are no workmen to be had except those that are worthless. Worthless under the present conditions, exposed to constant temptations to intemperance no doubt they are, but some of the brightest men in London, with some of the smartest pairs of hands, and the cleverest brains, are at the present moment weltering helplessly in the sludge from which we propose to rescue them.
I am not speaking without book in this matter. Some of my best Officers to-day have been even such as they. There is an infinite potentiality of capacity lying latent in our Provincial Tap-rooms and the City Gin Palaces if you can but get them soundly saved, and even short of that, if you can place them in conditions where they would no longer be liable to be sucked back into their old disastrous habits, you may do great things with them.

On befriending unlovable and friendless people:

If we are we to bring back the sense of brotherhood to the world, we must confront this difficulty. God, it was said in old time, setteth the desolate in families; but somehow, in our time, the desolate wander alone in the midst of a careless and unsympathising world. "There is no-one who cares for my soul. There is no creature loves me, and if I die no one will pity me," is surely one of the bitterest cries that can burst from a breaking heart. One of the secrets of the success of the Salvation Army is, that the friendless of the world find friends in it. There is not one sinner in the world-- no matter how degraded and dirty he may be--whom my people will not rejoice to take by the hand and pray with, and labour for, if thereby they can but snatch him as a brand from the burning. Now, we want to make more use of this, to make the Salvation Army the nucleus of a great agency for bringing comfort and counsel to those who are at their wits' end, feeling as if in the whole world there was no one to whom they could go.

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