Tag Archives: William Booth

Did you know men slept on the bridges?


This piece, from Christian History & Biography Issue 82 (the Phoebe Palmer/Holiness Movement issue) did a number on me as I was preparing it. The Salvation Army rocks.

Eyewitness
Did you know men slept on the bridges?
William Booth

When did the plight of the homeless first pierce your heart? Bramwell Booth, son of the beloved Salvation Army founder William Booth, remembers this moment in his father’s life—and how the senior Booth responded:

One morning, away back in the eighties, I was an early caller at his house in Clapton. Here I found him in his dressing-room, completing his toilet with ferocious energy. The hair-brushes which he held in either hand were being wielded with quite eloquent vigour upon a mane that was more refractory than usual, and his braces were flying like the wings of Pegasus. No good-morning-how-do-you-do here!

“Bramwell!” he cried, when he caught sight of me, “did you know that men slept out all night on the bridges?” Continue reading

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Salvation Army: The church behind the kettles


It’s that time again: the bells are ringing and the red kettles swinging in front of grocery stores and other public places all over America. And in this holiday season, when even the staunchest of of Scrooges can’t help but think of what part they should play in “goodwill to all men,” a historical Wesleyan church has its hour of highest profile. That’s right. The Salvation Army is a church, and an “evangelical” one to boot. In 2004, this church got an extra dose of publicity when McDonalds heiress Joan Kroc sent 1.5 billion dollars their way. And we did an e-newsletter for Christian History about this much-misunderstood group:

The Blood-and-Fire Mission of the Salvation Army
Where did this tuba-playing, kettle-wielding social force come from, and what’s it all about?
Chris Armstrong

Joan Kroc’s 1.5 billion dollar bequest recently put the Salvation Army on the front pages of many newspapers (and raised important questions about the potential effects of wealth on Christian organizations). But we didn’t need the reminder—we’ve known all about the Army for a long time.

Or have we?

We tend to associate them with Christmas kettles, brass bands, and the upright, do-gooder stance gently mocked in the Loesser musical (and Marlon Brando movie) Guys and Dolls. Continue reading

Tavern tunes in church music and “Why should the devil have all the good music?”


After I posted the Gregory piece, a friend, Michelle Myer, chimed in with the following on my Facebook page:

“You missed the bit where the dove landed on his shoulder and taught him the basics of Gregorian chant. 😉

“I’ve also heard him credited (through his adoption of Roman forms of chant for worship) as being the very first to say ‘Why should the Devil have all the good music?’ Larry Norman said it best, but maybe Gregory said it first?”

As Michelle knows, the bit about Gregory inventing Gregorian chant–dove or no dove–doesn’t have an ounce of evidence to support it (and much evidence goes against it). But since she has brought up the topic, here’s a reflection I posted back in the Christian History online newsletter days (2003), related to the origin both of the use of tavern tunes in church music–usually Luther is credited with doing this, but did he?–and the phrase “Why should the devil have all the good music?” The facts may surprise you. And some of the links may not work–this was posted over 5 years ago:

From Oratorios to Elvis
Pop culture has been coming to a church near you for hundreds of years.

Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has entered the (church) building.

Part II: Caveat Gyrator

Imagine a mutton-chop-whiskered, white-jump-suited Anglican priest, posed dramatically on one knee, arm raised skyward, belting out, before a cheering crowd of the pious and the curious, the Elvis hit “Where Could I Go But to the Lord.” (Yes, Elvis covered that song in 1968. His Majesty is not in the Gospel Hall of Fame for nothing—he garnered all three of his Grammies for gospel hits, not rock tunes.) Continue reading