History of the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is created during the industrial revolution in the slums of East London. The founder of the movement is the English William Booth (*1829-1912). He grew up in London, in the slums of Nottingham. During his youth, he goes in a Methodist movement and takes the decision to follow Jesus Christ. He became a lay preacher (Methodist).


With his wife, Catherine, he recognizes that people in social deprivation do not come into churches. So decided he to bring the Church into the street. His principle: relieve the soul as much as the physical distress of men. The movement, known as the "Christian Mission of East London" since 1865 is organized and became in 1878 the Salvation Army. It is spreading rapidly in all the United Kingdom and abroad.


The international Salvation Army is today present in 124 countries. Its international headquarters is in London and tt is led by the General Linda Bond.



Development in Switzerland

In 1882, Catherine Booth began the work of The Salvation Army in Switzerland. She was the daughter of the Founder, William Booth. Although she was only 24 years old at that time, she had already earned her reputation as "Maréchale" in France.


At the Casino of Saint-Pierre in Geneva, Catherine Booth gave her first sermon, together with five young Salvation Army officers. A great crowd listened to her. But the following gatherings at the Reformation Hall made the police step in.


From resistance and tumult...


In spite of all repulses, the young pioneers continued with their work, crossed the French speaking part of Switzerland and arrived in the German speaking part in 1885. In the cities of Zurich and Basel, The Salvation Army was tolerated under certain conditions: No Sunday school, all gatherings had to be over at 8 p.m., no instruments used, and no second Salvation Army Corps was to be opened in the canton.


The arrival of The Salvation Army caused an uproar und sometimes, Salvationists were even threatened with arms. They were hurt, their flats and buildings were plundered and damaged again and again. The authorities ordered the closure of the Salvation Army halls and prohibited the gatherings. Some of the members were arrested, brought to prison or deported.


Captain Charlotte Stirling was put in prison in the Chillon castle, because she taught children at the town of Orbe. The "Maréchale" herself was arrested at Neuchâtel and had to appear in court at Boudry. She was condemned to leave the canton of Neuchâtel.


…to recognition

The repulses and problems could not withhold people from turning to God and to become enthusiastic members and exponents of the Salvation Army. Thus it happened that the Salvation Army, seven years after its foundation in Geneva, was recognized in 1889 by the Federal Court as a religious institution. A decisive role was played by the Federal Counselors Louis Ruchonnet and Carl Hilty.


On 1st November 1901 a new phase began for the Salvation Army in Switzerland: It got its own headquarters in Berne. Up to this time the movement in Switzerland had been directed from the Paris headquarters.

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