Soup, soap, salvation

Declining membership, financial problems, too few people interested in becoming pastors: what is currently plaguing the two large churches is not an ie at The Salvation Army. The free church celebrates on 2. April in Baunatal near Kassel its 125th anniversary in Germany.

"The trend is positive," enthuses Annette Preub, public relations officer at the Cologne headquarters for Germany, Lithuania and Poland. However, with nationwide membership of around 4.000 members also tend to be among the smaller free churches, Preub added. Thanks to good youth work in the past five years, there are enough young people who would like to become officers, which is the equivalent of a priest.

"We generally take care of marginalized groups"
The focus of Salvation Army work has not changed much in the many years since the Free Church was founded by Methodist minister William Booth in England in 1865. "We generally take care of marginalized groups," says Preub. In many cities, the Salvation Army runs soup kitchens, shelters for the homeless and does social work among the homeless and prostitutes.

The old motto "Soup, soap, salvation" from the 19. He said that the twenty-first century was still an accurate description. Preub explains that the respective situation on the ground is taken into account. The work in Hamburg, for example, requires a different profile than in a small town: "In Hamburg, we work mainly in the evenings and at night."

The uniform remains
The uniform, which has been a distinctive feature of The Salvation Army from the very beginning, will be retained in the future as well. "Except in Germany, it is not a problem to wear a uniform in any country in the world," Preub counters the critics. The dark blue uniform, which also indicates the rank of the wearer, stands for the testimony of the Gospel as well as for personal protection.

"Imagine a young woman who wanted to work in the Hamburg neighborhood without a uniform. That wouldn't do at all," says Preub.
Through the uniform, which includes a tie and cap for men and a hat for women, the employee and his or her mission are clearly identifiable.

Salvation Army present in 124 countries
Internationally, the free church now exists in 124 countries. Even in Japan, which is currently suffering the devastating consequences of the earthquake disaster, the "Soldiers of God" have been active for 116 years. At present, three corps are on relief duty in the earthquake zone around the city of Sendai.

On Saturday, there will be a change in leadership at the anniversary festival in Baunatal, which is expected to attract about 700 members and friends. The commander for Germany, Lithuania and Poland, Horst Charlet, will say goodbye after six years of service in this highest office. His wife Helga, responsible for the women's organization of the church, will also resign from her office at the end of May.
They are followed by the couple Patrick and Anne-Dore Naud, who will ame these positions in June.

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