A NEWSPAPER report announcing the arrival of the Salvation Army in Gainsborough 125 years ago declared that, after parading through the town, church leaders ‘opened fire’ in the Albert Hall.
It was using the military language associated with the church whose officers wear uniform and are given army rankings.
It was on 28th November 1886 that the Salvation Army began Sunday services at the Albert Hall, which it had rented for six months.
Services were held morning, afternoon and evening - and some people attended all three.
“You have to remember that there wasn’t much else to do on a Sunday back then, there were no shops open,” said Major Geoff Martin, who leads the Gainsborough Corps today with his wife Glenda, who is also a Major.
“People liked the music as well because they used popular tunes of the day and put religious tunes to them, like the words to Champagne Charlie became ‘praise his name he sets us free’.”
The Salvation Army wasn’t as popular with everyone though, particularly publicans who feared its teetotal message would affect trade.
Glenda said: “They used to go round the pubs recruiting and the publicans didn’t like it because they thought people wouldn’t come back. There were cases of Salvationists being pelted with tomatoes and eggs.”
“People can come and worship with us and not be teetotal, but if you become a soldier you do have to be teetotal.”
Nowadays the Salvation Army gets great public support for its charity work, especially for the food parcels it sends out to local people in need every week.
“This Christmas we will be sending out over 200 food parcels to needy families in Gainsborugh, which we couldn’t do without the generosity of the public,” said Glenda.
They also hold a weekly table top sale of donated secondhand items in the newly renovated citadel hall, on Beaumont Street, which has people queuing to get in.
There is also a toy service at this time of year to collect Christmas gifts for local children who might not otherwise receive a present.
Glenda said: “A lot of people think we are a charity, but we are actually a church and our charity work comes out of our love for God.”
Geoff and Glenda are the latest in a long line of ministers who have led the Salvation Army in Gainsborough since Elijah Cadman brought in the first congregation.
Among their predecessors are Colin and Rosemary Cowdery who are now working for the church in Pakistan.
Music and the brass band have always been a key feature of the Salvation Army and Gainsborough’s band travelled to Norway in the 1960s when it was in its hey day with around 40 members.
Although smaller now, it still features strongly in services, along with the Songsters choir. They also perform concerts and make Sunday appearances at Marshall’s Yard, across the road from the citdadel, once a month.
Glenda, who comes from Barton on Humber and will be 60 on Christmas Eve, was brought up as a Salvationist, while Geoff, 62, first attended Sunday school in his home town of Middlesbrough as a cub scout.
It was 20 years ago when they felt God’s call to become Salvation Army officers.
The couple, who have one son, were sent to Belper and Ripley in Derbyshire as auxiliary captains and completed their training there. Since then have had posts in Loughborough, Nottingham and Northants, before moving to Gainsborough two-and-half-years ago.
Geoff said: “We like being in a community rather than in a big city because you can get to know people better and build relationships.”
“When we’re walking round town we get people recognising us and stopping to chat, even when we’re not in uniform.”
After 20 years of fundraising, the new citadel hall opened last year, after £500,000 of renovations which saw part of the old building demolished and the original hall gutted and then restored.
Geoff and Glenda say anyone is welcome to come to Sunday worship. They can be contacted on 01427 616353.