The year 1896 marked the commencement of The Salvation Army’s 125-year journey in Bermuda. Only a year before, the Hallelujah Blue Jackets, a group of sailors from the Naval and Military League of The Salvation Army, marched through the streets of the tiny “emerald island of the Atlantic,” rallying anyone who would listen to the gospel message. Their efforts reaped results, and they requested assistance from Canada.
Lieutenant David Smith was one of the first Salvation Army officers to conduct services in Bermuda in 1895, at King’s Barn at the foot of Lemon Hill in Southampton. As momentum for the Army grew within Bermuda’s shores, he was followed a year later by Ensign Lutie DesBrisay, Captain Johnson and Lieutenant Forsyth, who sailed from Halifax. Ensign DesBrisay is remembered for her tenacious approach to sharing the gospel message and making an impactful stamp on the establishment of The Salvation Army in Bermuda.
These early beginnings were documented in Bermuda Ablaze, a research project commissioned for the centennial anniversary. While these years were not without challenge as this strange, unknown church attempted to establish itself within the local community, the mission of The Salvation Army had begun in earnest and the fire of the Holy Spirit was kindled in the lives of those who began to join its ranks.
The beat of the drum issued a challenge to meet the needs of those who had been discarded and disowned by society; to demonstrate the love of God in practical ways, while never forgetting that the war we fight is a spiritual one and the ultimate act of love is to share the message of Christ’s eternal love.
The Journey Ahead
Today, the mission is the same and the message has never been more relevant. Since those early years, the work of The Salvation Army in Bermuda has made an impact on each succeeding generation and is recognized in the Bermuda community for its contribution to Guiding and Scouts, music instruction, emergency and disaster relief, addiction and rehabilitation, emergency housing and social services.
We have sent commissioned Army officers and disaster relief personnel to serve abroad. We have participated in the wider Salvation Army at the territorial and international levels through congresses, youth congresses and music camps.
Soldiers, adherents and friends of the Army still partner with the Bermuda community to meet needs within these tiny shores. As a division, we have found ways to connect and reach out, using sports such as soccer and cricket, women’s and men’s fellowship, and music events such as camps and band concerts—all with the aim to share the gospel.
As a church movement, we face challenges, as well. It is a vastly different world than the one encountered by the early officers who rode across the 57-square-kilometre landscape via bicycle. Many citizens of Bermuda now experience the benefits of modern technology and the freedom to engage in any number of activities seven days a week. Gone are the quiet, commercefree Sundays.
We, too, have the challenge of staying true to our mission and message amid the threat of loss of financial support and patronage. We are seeing our stalwart soldiers promoted to glory faster than their replacements are being enrolled. As we move into 2022, The Salvation Army in Bermuda is being beckoned to hear the beat of the drum once again and rekindle the flame of the mission to which God has called us.
God is still calling The Salvation Army of Bermuda to respond to the needs of humanity. We are small, but God is mighty. The need is great for the love of Christ to be expressed through practical service. We are still fighting a spiritual war of sin amid a worldly battle of increasing social need.
In more recent months, the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has created an even greater economic divide. The people who come to our community and family services need you, they need me, they need Christ.
As we embark on the next 125 years, we are challenged and encouraged to continue to march to the beat of our Founder, General William Booth. We need to hear the weeping, and fight. We need to see the injustice and inequality within our community, and fight. We must hear the call of the lost and discarded, and fight. We must stand up and declare with bold voice and relentless resolve the words of William James Pearson’s song, God Is Keeping His Soldiers Fighting (SASB 953):
No, we never, never, never will give in,
No we won’t! No we won’t!
No, we never, never, never will give in,
For we mean to have the victory forever.
Andrea Cann is a senior soldier at North Street Citadel in Hamilton, Bermuda.
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