Sunday, 27 March 2011

William Booth

NAME William Booth

WHAT FAMOUS FOR Founder of the Salvation Army

BIRTH b 10 April 1829, Sneinton, Nottingham, England

FAMILY BACKGROUND William was the only son of four surviving children born to Samuel Booth and Mary Moss. Booth's speculative builder father was wealthy by the standards of the time, but during his childhood, as a result of bad investments, the family descended into poverty and Samuel Booth became an alcoholic. William said of him "He set his heart unduly upon worldly gains and was miserable when his fortune melted away."

CHILDHOOD A "careless" lad up to the age of 15, after a bad illness William's spirit became awakened and he joined a Wesleyan chapel.

EDUCATION In 1842, Samuel Booth, who by then was bankrupt, could no longer afford his son's school fees, and 13-year-old William was apprenticed to a pawnbroker.

CAREER RECORD Two years into his apprenticeship William was inspired by a hellfire preacher from USA. He was converted to Methodism. He then read extensively and trained himself in writing and in speech, becoming a Methodist lay preacher initially in the Nottingham slums and a pawn broker. Booth disliked pawnbroking and considered it ungodly.

1852 On 10 April, his 23rd birthday, Booth left pawnbroking and became a full-time preacher. He travelled through England as an itinerant preacher of the Methodist Reform Church and took on several minister's jobs.
1861 Booth resigned from the Methodist ministry as he was unhappy that the annual conference of the denomination kept assigning him to a pastorate, the duties of which he had to neglect to respond to the frequent requests that he do evangelistic campaigns. Instead he became an independent evangelist.
1865 Began work as unattached evangelist in London's East End heading up 'The Christian Mission.'
1878 Adopted name Salvation Army as churches were reluctant to accept his converts. 1880 William set up first Salvation Army branch in USA.

APPEARANCE With his very long beard, the elderly William Booth looked like Uncle Albert in (British comedy show) Only Fools and Horses.

FASHION Booth's Salvation Army adopted their famous uniform including the bonnets which provided protective headgear when the going got rough.

CHARACTER Gruff voiced and a strong disciplinarian. A good orator, miraculously with Booth's beard you wouldn't think he'd be able to speak above a whisper.

SENSE OF HUMOUR It was William Booth who explained the authoritarian framework of his Salvation Army by remarking that if Moses had operated through committees the Israelites never would have got across the Red Sea."

RELATIONSHIPS William first met Catherine Mumford when he came to preach at her church in 1852. They soon fell in love and became engaged on 15 May 1852. During their three year engagement, Catherine constantly wrote letters of encouragement to William as he performed the tiring work of a preacher. They married on 16 June 1855 at Stockwell Green Congregational Church in London. Their wedding was very simple, as they wanted to use their time and money for his ministry. Even on their honeymoon Booth was asked to speak at meetings.
Catherine was a fervent Methodist of tenderest affection and great force of mind. She started preaching around 1860 and initiated a ministry of women. Catherine bore William 8 children and they were reared with an iron disciple. His grand daughter Catherine Bramwell-Booth (1884-1987) was a regular on British chat shows including Parkinson in the 1970s & 80s. His son William Bramwell (1856-1929) succeeded his father as general of Salvation Army.

MONEY AND FAME Booth lived on a small income partly settled on him by a friend and partly derived from the sale of his publications.

FOOD AND DRINK In his book In Darkest England and the Way Out, which contains proposals for the physical and spiritual assistance of the great mass of down and outs, Booth wrote, "A starving man cannot hear you preaching. Give him a bowl of soup and he will listen to every word."
Catherine was a temperance advocate and banned her husband’s medicinal port.

MUSIC AND ARTS Booth's Salvation army pinched the pop songs of their day and added Christian words. The bearded wonder's reaction to this was "Why should the devil have all the best tunes." Their loud processions with their drums and bass and dancing Christians disrupting the Sunday peace and quiet annoyed a lot of people.

LITERATURE Booth's 1890 In Darkest England and the Way Out contained proposals for the physical and spiritual assistance of the great mass of down and outs. As a result a scheme was launched the following year for the spiritual and social betterment of the submerged tenth. Booth asked for £100,000 - more than that came in.
Booth founded The War Cry, the official organ of The Salvation Army.

ANIMALS Booth once ordered his children's pet dog to be shot when it snapped at a servant. He was surprised when they were heartbroken and retrieved the carcass in order to have the pelt made into a rug. The Sally Army leader was bewildered when they received this with hysteria rather than gratitude.

PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY Booth experienced religious conversion at the age of 15 through the ministry of an American hellfire preacher and devoted his evenings over the following few years to religious work in the local slums. It is here that became acquainted with conditions of life among the very poor. Later Booth became a full-time travelling evangelist for the Methodist church. Trekking up and down the country by train, the recently married Booth and his wife, Catherine, survived on £2 a week.
In 1865 Booth and his wife started their mission aimed at the unprivileged classes that lived in unspeakable poverty in the East End of London. Thirteen years later, the annual Christmas appeal for William Booth’s Mission was drawn up. The circular was in dialogue form and to one of the questions “What is the Christian mission?” the answer was “a volunteer army”. Suddenly Booth seized a pen, crossed out “volunteer” and wrote instead “salvation”, thus coining the title “Salvation Army” for his movement.
His book In Darkest England, and the Way Out (1890) contained proposals for the physical and spiritual redemption of the many down-and-outs Booth ministered to. It was not only a best-seller after its 1890 release, but also set the foundation for the Army's modern social welfare schemes.
As a preacher Booth was a populist crowd puller. For example he was known to demonstrate the easy road to Hell by sliding down the stair-rail of his pulpit. A champion of the poor he railed against those who “reduce sweating to a fine art, who systematically and deliberately defraud the workman of his pay, who grind the faces of the poor and rob the widow and the orphan.”
In 1912 Booth, who had been in poor health for several years was dying. When asked what had been the secret of his success all the way through, the General replied “I will tell you the secret, God has had all there was of me!” The end of his last speech went as follows: “While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight. While little children go hungry, I’ll fight. While there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, where there remains one dark soul without the light of God- I’ll fight! I’ll fight to the very end!”

SCANDAL In their early days Booth's "hallelujah band" of converted criminals and others met violent opposition. A skeleton army, supported by brewers which opposed Booth's teetotalism as a threat to their trade, was organised to break up meetings and for years the rank and file and the general himself incurred fines and imprisonment for breaches of peace. In 1882 642 Salvation Army officers including women were assaulted and 60 Salvation Army buildings damaged. Even leading evangelical, Lord Shaftesbury referred to him as "anti Christ."
When King Edward VII invited Booth to be officially present at his 1902 coronation ceremony, the public changed their views. By 1905 he was the cat's whiskers. The Salvation Army General went on a tour of the country and was received in state by many mayors and corporations.

HEALTH Booth discovered in 1909 that he was blind in his right eye and the sight in his left eye was dimmed by cataracts. On 21 August 1909 a surgeon at Guy's Hospital removed his right eye.

TRAVEL In 1904 Booth took part in a 'motorcade' when he was driven around Great Britain, stopping off in cities, towns and villages to preach to the assembled crowds from inside his open-top car.

DEATH William Booth was 83 years old when he died on 20 August 1912 at his home in Hadley Wood, London. He had been in poor health for several years. At the three day lying in state at Clapton Congress Hall 150,000people filed past his casket. On 27 August Booth's funeral service was held at London’s Olympia where 40,000 people attended, including Queen Mary, who sat almost unrecognised far to the rear of the great hall.
The following day Booth's funeral procession set out from International Headquarters. As it moved off 10,000 uniformed Salvationists fell in behind. Forty Salvation Army bands played the ‘Dead March’ from Handel’s Saul as the vast procession set off. He was buried with his wife Catherine Booth in the main London burial ground for 19th century non-conformist ministers and tutors, the non-denominational Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington.

ACHIEVEMENTS (1) Booth founded the Salvation Army. By the time of his death his activities for the down and outs had extended all over the world.
(2) Booth's Salvation Army learnt that Under 16-year-old girls were being exploited as prostitutes. They were trapped and lured into brothels in London by adverts in county newspapers requesting "domestic help needed." Lured inside, drugged, raped and shipped off in caskets to Brussels and Antwerp, they were delivered to businessmen who had put in orders. The Salvation Army exposed this trade in a series of articles in the Pall Mall Gazette in the mid 1880s. As a result a 400,000 petition persuaded Parliament to change the age of consent from 12 to 16.
(3) His book In Darkest England And The Way Out not only caused a sensation after its 1890 release, but it set the foundation for modern social welfare schemes.

Sources Wikipedia
Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

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