150yrs of Salvation Army - Catherine Booth!


Posted by Julie Edensor on 2 July 2015 | Comments

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As we celebrate the 150yr anniversary of the Salvation Army – I thank the LORD for the life and ministry of Catherine Booth and her famous Hallelujah Lasses. Judges 5 v 7 “I arose a mother in Israel” certainly applies to this incredible woman of God.

Catherine Booth (1829 – 1890) was called the "Mother of The Salvation Army".

At a time when a woman's place was often seen to be in the home, Catherine Booth fought for women to be able to preach in church meetings and expanded the movement's action further than seeking salvation for the poor and hungry.

"If the Word of God forbids female ministry, we would ask how it happens that so many of the most devoted handmaidens of the Lord have felt constrained by the Holy Ghost to exercise it? … The Word and the Spirit cannot contradict each other."

They were unlikely evangelists. Eighteen-year-old Rose Clapham stood with her colleague, Jenny Smith, and invited hundreds of world-weary coal miners in Yorkshire, England, to a meeting in the local theatre. At that 1878 meeting, Rose, an uneducated factory worker, persuaded 700 men to make decisions for Christ—140 of which became the first members of a new church.

Rose was but one of the new "Hallelujah lasses" who were making the Salvation Army one of the most effective missions in England. Who inspired these young, working-class women to minister in such an unusual way? Catherine Booth, co-founder of the Salvation Army.

Catherine was raised in the pious and sheltered world of small-town Victorian England, and her mother was a model of Methodist piety. In her teenage years, Catherine suffered from a spinal curvature and was forced to lay in bed months at a time. She read voraciously, especially the writings of Charles Finney and John Wesley, and she not only became assured of her own salvation but also gained a glimmer of her own calling to public ministry.

Catherine read her Bible through eight times by the time she was 12 years of age. It was not until she was 16 that she was really reborn in the spirit. She read the words 'My God I am Thine, what a comfort Divine' in her hymn book and realised the truth of this statement for herself.

When people suggested that a woman's place was in the home, she wondered if the Christian church, which preached a liberating gospel to both men and women, could keep women from expressing their manifold ministry gifts. She eventually concluded that a false interpretation of Paul's comment about women keeping silent in church had resulted in "loss to the church, evil to the world, and dishonour to God."

In the early 1850s, she met and married William Booth, a young preacher who was making a name for himself. When she shared her emerging convictions with her new husband, he said, "I would not stop a woman preaching on any account." But he added that neither would he "encourage one to begin."

In responding to her critics, she asked, "If the Word of God forbids female ministry, we would ask how it happens that so many of the most devoted handmaidens of the Lord have felt constrained by the Holy Ghost to exercise it? … The Word and the Spirit cannot contradict each other."

Catherine herself, however, had yet to venture to preach or teach publicly. That occasion finally came in 1860, when she first preached during an evening Army service. Her abilities were soon apparent, and her reputation spread.

Small wonder, then, that hundreds of "Hallelujah lasses," as they made their way in the wretched streets and alleys of industrial England, saw the Army Mother as their mentor.

Catherine Booth began to organize what became known as Food-for-the-Million Shops where the poor could buy hot soup and a three-course dinner for sixpence. On special occasions such as Christmas Day, she would cook over 300 dinners to be distributed to the poor of London.

It was while working with the poor in London that Catherine found out about what was known as "sweated labour". That is, women and children working long hours for low wages in very poor conditions. In the tenements of London, Catherine discovered red-eyed women hemming and stitching for eleven hours a day. These women were only paid 9d. a day, whereas men doing the same work in a factory were receiving over 3s. 6d. Catherine and fellow members of the Salvation Army attempted to shame employers into paying better wages. They also attempted to improve the working conditions of these women.

Catherine was particularly concerned about women making matches. Not only were these women only earning 1s. 4d. for a sixteen hour day, they were also risking their health when they dipped their match-heads in the yellow phosphorus supplied by manufacturers such as Bryant & May. A large number of these women suffered from 'Phossy Jaw' (necrosis of the bone) caused by the toxic fumes of the yellow phosphorus. The whole side of the face turned green and then black, discharging foul-smelling pus and finally death.

Catherine Booth also supported the suffrage movement hoping that women voters “would be a powerful force for good in the world. She believed that intellectually woman was man's equal, but the lack of training or lack of opportunity made her sometimes inferior. Catherine Booth began recruitment of young women, mostly from the working classes, later called Hallelujah Lasses, whose task was to bring relief to female and child residents of slum districts. She contributed significantly to the establishment of rescue homes for young prostitutes and wayward and delinquent women.

She encouraged women to take up more active roles in society as she strongly believed in the moral and social equality of men and women. Her fight against child prostitution resulted that Parliament passed a law raising the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen.

In Israel darkest hour God raised up ‘a mother’ Judges 5 v 17 – my prayer is that God by the power of His Holy Spirit with raise up in more women in these dark days of the same character as Catherine Booth.


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