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The movement, founded in London, England in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth has spread from Britain to 107 countries of the world. Salvationist (as members of the Army are called) come from many cultural backgrounds and enjoys an international fellowship knowing no barriers of age, sex or race.
William Booth's original aim had been to send his converts to the established churches of the day. Nowhere in his plans was there an intention to commence another Christian church. But he soon found that many of his converts would not go to church. The poor did not feel welcome in places like St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey. They could not afford a special Sunday suit and many of the regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed people came to join them in worship. The poor soon got the message that they were not wanted and did not return.
Booth decided he would have to do something about the situation, and as a result formed the East London Christian Mission (later "The Christian Mission"). The mission began to grow very slowly. It lacked the impetus needed to attract and hold people's attention. But Booth's faith in God remained undaunted.
Early one morning in May 1878, Booth summoned his son, Bramwell and his good friend, George Railton, to read the Christian Mission's Annual Report. Its preliminary statement read:
"THE CHRISTIAN MISSION IS A VOLUNTEER ARMY"
Bramwell strongly objected to this statement, saying he was not a volunteer for he felt compelled by God to do what he had to do. In a moment of inspiration Booth crossed out the word "Volunteer" and wrote "Salvation". Thus, The Salvation Army was born.
The early Salvationists were not wrong in their initial reaction to the island and its people back in 1892 when the first meeting in Barbados was conducted by Major James Cooke and Adjutant Raglan Phillips. These men, and those that followed in 1893 and 1895 encouraged International Headquarters to send a detachment to Barbados forthwith.
The reputation of the Army's work in the region and in England had laid the foundation for a warm and enthusiastic reception amongst the population such that when the official founding battalion arrived on Saturday, April 30, 1898, Barbados welcome Staff-Captain and Mrs. Edward Widgery with open arms. Their first meeting was held on Monday, May 2, 1898 at Wilhemina Hall, on High Street in Bridgetown.
Interestingly, at the June 1st , 1898 meeting, Captain Widgery was arrested as it was claimed that the meeting was "an annoyance to the public and interfering with traffic". An ironic beginning for an organization that was, with the government of the day to develop in 1946 the probation system we use today.
In the fall of 1898, a sever hurricane struck the island. As they would many times in the ensuing years in times of natural disaster, epidemic and need the Army proved its worth in Barbados. Distributing meals and garments, providing shelter and comfort. The Barbados Advocate newspaper at the time reported ‘the Salvationists ... are thoughtful not only of the souls of people but also of the bodily wants'.
With Bridgetown as headquarters, the Army spread across the island opening Corps (Church) in Speightstown in 1898, Oistins 1900, Diamond Corner 1908, Four Roads 1914, Sea View 1919 and out outpost at Josey Hill, then known as Pie Corner.