Known for its uniforms, brass bands, and programs for the poor, the Salvation Army began its work in Georgia on October 19, 1890. Its “grand opening” in the state was a small but significant affair, beginning with an open-air evangelistic service on an Atlanta street corner and proceeding to a meeting in a newly rented assembly room. The Salvation Army in Atlanta grew slowly, but by the end of January 1891, thirty “soldiers” had enlisted. On April 12, 1891, the second official Georgia corps opened in Augusta. By 1895 the mission was again gaining ground. New corps opened in Columbus (1895), in Rome (1897), in Macon (1899), and in Brunswick and Savannah (1900).
By the end of the twentieth century, the Salvation Army operated 136 facilities in Georgia. More than 70 officers are based in the state, and almost 400 employees, aided by approximately 24,000 volunteers, carry on the work of the army.
In 1865 a Methodist pastor named William Booth, aided by his wife, Catherine, founded the Christian Mission as a rescue operation in the East End of London. Renamed the Salvation Army in 1878, the organization adopted a military form of church government, which included uniforms and other distinctive features, and set out to “wage war” against sin and poverty. Military terms have been used by the Salvation Army throughout the years to designate ranks of officers and to describe the activities of the organization. Those who became soldiers confessed their sins, accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior from sin, and exhibited a sense of responsibility to win others to the Christian faith.
In 1890 William Booth published In Darkest England, and the Way Out, which set the tone for the army’s increasing emphasis on its social programs. Catherine Booth, known as the “Mother of the Salvation Army,” defended the right of women to preach and fought against the exploitation of women and children. Within the army she consolidated the principle that women have absolute equality with men in privilege, position, and dignity, and she earned the sympathy of the upper classes for the social movement of the organization.
The Salvation Army Today
Today an international movement, the Salvation Army operates in 106 countries, where it maintains religious and social service centers, including schools and hospitals . Officers and soldiers preach the Christian gospel in more than 136 languages. The army describes itself as “an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
The organization’s ministries in Georgia provide and support basic social services, holiday assistance, summer and day camps, disaster assistance, correctional services, community centers and clubs, activities for senior citizens, and substance-abuse rehabilitation. The Salvation Army in Georgia operates corps community centers, service centers, boys’ and girls’ clubs, service units, and thrift stores around the state. The army has also established in Atlanta a Harbor Light Center (a residential substance-abuse recovery center), a housing complex for senior citizens, and an adult rehabilitation center, as well as a camp in Jasper.