God's Hallelujah Lasses


Posted by Julie Edensor on 10 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 army of Hallelujah Lasses.

When I think of the courageous young women (The Hallelujah Lasses) who were on fire with the Gospel of Jesus Psalm 68 v 11 comes to mind “The Lord gives instructions. The women who announce the good news are a large army.”

"Some of my best men are women”, said William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army.  The Army recognised spiritual gifting and cared nothing for gender. The Booths’ own fearsomely talented and God-loving daughters led the way. William himself was known to give over the platform to his teenage daughter Kate, who could often reach people’s hearts better than he could.

Similarly, if the Army was looking to plant a new church, they frequently sent in a team of young, sometimes teenaged women. And they did the job. Here is one example among many.

The great question in most churches which are at all earnest in their work, is how to reach the masses. Sounds relevant? This isn’t some present-day church growth report; it comes from an English newspaper, the Northern Daily Express, of 4th March 1879, and concerns events in Gateshead.

The journalist comments that the section of the community that lies outside the usual compass of religious life comprised most of the audience. More unusual still, the work which experienced ministers and the ordinary agencies of churches had failed in, has been attempted by a few young women. These were the “Hallelujah Lasses”, the storm troopers of the early Salvation Army.

Some six or eight weeks ago, about half-a-dozen young women made a raid under the banner of a Gospel mission among the lowest classes in the town, and they have succeeded in the most remarkable manner… They have got such a hold upon the masses as to tame some of the worst of the characters. A thorough transformation has been effected in the lives of some of the most thoughtless, depraved and criminal.

These women, most in their twenties, hired music-halls for their meetings. Despite the sneers from all sides, within a short time these places were filled to overflowing for three hours, and hundreds are unable to gain admission.

What can have enabled these Salvation Army girls to achieve such breakthroughs? Much comes down to the twin elements of BLOOD and FIRE that were to become the Army’s motto. A total conviction of the power of Jesus’ redeeming blood to save even the worst, together with the freshness of the Holy Spirit’s filling (for which Salvationists spent whole nights of prayer) kept them pressing into territory where other feared to go, and expecting results.

They also used the power of personal testimony. The journalist tells of the roughest and most criminal of people glorifying God for their soul’s salvation. And the Army used the passion of youth: One youth, who is evidently not more than fourteen, is quite a phenomenon, and certainly has a marvellous utterance for one so young and inexperienced. On Saturday night, we were told, he spoke for twenty minutes, and carried the audience so fully away with him, that in the midst of his address three or four persons went up to the penitent form [benches placed at the front of the hall, where people could come and kneel, pray, repent and receive personal prayer].

The journalist concludes, perceptively, that what is needed in the work now is consolidation – some agency to carry the converts beyond the few simple truths they have got hold of, and to give them an interest in the work when the excitement of the change and the effort has passed away.

Hallelujah lasses were generally single, devout lower middle- or working-class women between the age of twenty and thirty, who visited slum areas, where no respectable woman was expected to be seen. They carried the Salvationist message marching through the streets with tambourines, sang religious songs, and often reached the vilest areas of London's East End, where prevailed gambling, prostitution, deprivation, and hunger. The Hallelujah lasses did not have a proper training of social workers, but thanks to their commitment and devotion they dared to enter a gutter or brothel from which they could rescue persons who wanted help.

Hallelujah lasses attracted the attention of the public by their spectacular conduct and characteristic attire. They wore black woollen capes over plain black dresses and Quaker-like bonnets. Sometimes they were accompanied by ragtag people singing, banging tambourines and carrying posters: “Hell or Heaven, Which do you choose? They conducted religious services and maintained refuges for destitute women and children from urban slums. At the Wesleyan Conference in 1880, William Booth affirmed that “female ministry was one of the key reasons for the Salvation Army's progress. ”

It is with great sadness that we have returned to the moral / spiritual state that William’s Booth’s book ‘Darkest England and The Way Out’ describes. In these days there is a greater need then ever for God’s Hallelujah Lasses to arise and be these that will proclaim the good news – this certainly is my prayer… Father raise up your daughters in the character of Deborah, Huldah, Hannah, Esther, Pricilla, Chloe, Phoebe …..ect….


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