One summer evening in 1865 a tall, extremely energetic Methodist minister walked through London's East End. He stopped to listen to a group of men who were preaching outside the Blind Beggar public house. Their teaching, their methods, their fervour gripped his interest and it showed on his face. He was invited to have a word. The preachers listened spellbound.

'This is the man we want at the tent,' they agreed.

After the nightly street meetings they would adjourn to an old tent in a disused burial ground. They needed a leader more able than themselves for these indoor gatherings, and so they invited the minister, William Booth, to take charge. A few days later, on Sunday 2 July, he conducted a service out of which grew the Salvation Army.

Pawnbroker to preacher

William Booth was born in Nottingham in 1829, the son of an unsuccessful builder. He had been a pawnbroker's assistant in his native town and in Kennington, London. Since then he had been a full-time preacher for thirteen years, but that summer evening he was out of an appointment. Among the poor of Whitechapel he found his destiny.

Slowly he made converts and unintentionally built up a new Christian body. This at first he called The Christian Mission. By 1878, when the name of the organization was changed to The Salvation Army, he had eighty-eight paid helpers and operated fifty centres, from North Shields to Portsmouth as well as in Wales.

Following the alteration to the 'Army' title, William Booth became known as the General and his full-time helpers as Captains. Further military terms were introduced. A group of members became a corps, and their terms of commissioning became Articles of War. Even today a soldier, instead of paying a weekly contribution, fires a cartridge. ...

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