The Reason Behind the Ringing

December 2016 - Cover Story
by Deena C. Bouknight

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December 2016 - Cover Story

Salvation Army bell ringers have become synonymous with the holiday retail rush. Customers flow in and out of stores all over the city while the volunteers brave crowds and inclement weather. Some consumers throw a few dollars into the red kettles, some share Christmas greetings, and others hurl belligerent insults. Few stop to consider what’s behind the ringing. Sure, the money is for a good cause: the Salvation Army. But what’s the money used for? How did the concept of bell ringing emerge? And who are these volunteers anyway?

Its Start

While America was wrapping up the war that pitted American against American, in London, England, William Booth was opening the doors of the first Salvation Army. Booth was a minister who wanted to do more to carry out the message Jesus taught regarding “the least of these” than just teach from the pulpit. So in 1865 he went to the poor, dirty, depressing streets of London.

Booth’s mission was to church the unchurched—those who felt uncomfortable entering the established churches of the day where the fashionable and affluent attended. He founded a church for the poor called the East London Christian Mission. Interest was gradual, but Booth persevered. By 1878, the Mission had grown large enough to warrant an annual report. The report was titled “The Christian Mission is a Volunteer Army.” Booth objected to the word “volunteer.” He crossed it out and wrote the word “salvation.” Thus the Salvation Army—now known worldwide—was born.

Why did Christ die for you?

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