Amazing work – Amazing Results. The Salvation Army in Canada

The teenage founders, Addie and Ludgate
The teenage founders, Jack Addie and Joe Ludgate

The Salvation Army in Canada
Before long, the Salvationists were spreading. If they were determined enough to try the zaniest ideas on British audiences, they were willing to travel long distances to take their message elsewhere.

I read this short account of the work of Abbie Thompson in 1883. She was a 19yr old Salvation Army Captain who sought to bring the gospel to Kingston, Ontario, Canada. I’ll let the statement stand on its own, except to give a brief introduction by quoting from two contemporary sources, both of which are hilarious.

The Salvation Army had already ‘opened fire’ in Canada, and were not altogether well received. Their youthful working-class roots were difficult to conceal and some didn’t like it. After all, the two founding officers were still teenagers.

On November 8th 1882, the Toronto Globe recorded,

Rev Mr.Bray of Montreal, is opposed to The Salvation Army and its methods. The Reverend gentleman particularly objects to the hymnology of the Army, portions of which contain, in his opinion, very little of religious fervour. Certainly it is hardly possible to escape the conclusion that there is something irreverent in the hymn, "Elijah was a jolly old man, and was carried off to heaven in a fiery van." Yet its intent is good. It is designed to convey to the untutored mind a biblical truth in language suited to the capacities of the persons on whose behalf The Salvation Army labours.
The amazing Abbie Thompson
The amazing Abbie Thompson

Abbie Thompson made her first appearance in 1883. The Toronto Mail actually made reference to her arrival:

(Kingston) This morning a trunk arrived from the Cape upon which were written the words ”Captain Abbie Thompson” “Hallelujah” “Fire”. The Customs officer eyed it suspiciously, and thought of dynamite, infernal machines, and fenians. He refused to search it, and ordered its removal to the warehouse to await its owner.[i]

12,000 attending each night!
Richard Collier puts this early work in Canada in a condensed but baffling paragraph:

And Canada, where two like-minded pioneers had begun on their own initiative, needed organisers too. From May, 1882, when Jack Addie, an eighteen-year-old dry goods salesman and Joe Ludgate, a clothes presser, paraded the streets of London, Ontario, in blue tunics and helmets like British bobbies, The Army’s cause spread like fire under a leaning wind. At Bowmanville, where every leading citizen became a local officer, new ordinances soon forbade men swearing in the streets. At Guelph, one-ninth of the entire population were Salvationists. When Captain “Hallelujah Abbie” Thompson, a vivacious nineteen-year-old brunette, began drawing crowds of 12,000 a night, a sharp-witted Kingston, Ontario, cosmetics manufacturer was quick to cash in. Swiftly he launched a new line in toiletries – “Hallelujah Abbie Soap.”[ii]

Booth seemed entirely confident in his young, energetic, working-class leaders. And their ability to attract large crowds is almost baffling. Perhaps we are too keen to polish up our new leaders or wait a little too long. Perhaps we could learn a little from history and release more of that youthful energy into ministry (just wait ‘til we get to Spurgeon).
More next time….
For the first post in this series on the Salvation Army click here

©2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

[i] Both newspaper quotes from
[ii] Richard Collier, The General Next to God (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins 1965) p.76


Breaking News: America was discovered by the Vikings!!

Here come the Vikings!

Ah, but is it church history? It is according to Leigh Churchill, who in his 2004 volume, ‘The Age of Knights & Friars, Popes & Reformers’ (Authentic, UK) notes that it was Christian leaders from Scandinavian countries who were the first Europeans to ‘discover’ North America.

Leaders of Denmark, Norway and Sweden had all embraced the Christian faith by the 11th Century. The government of Iceland declared Christianity to be the national religion in 1000AD. Greenland received missionaries in the same year and, while the message was resisted by its founders, the second generation of Viking settlers in Greenland embraced the Christian faith.

As the drive to colonise new islands continued, it was one of these Vikings who led the exploration of what is now Newfoundland, Canada.

Our hero’s name? ‘Leif the Lucky!’ (that’s true!). To those familiar with the story he will, of course, be remembered as the son of ‘Erik the Red’ (also true)!

He called the newly found ‘island’, ‘Vinland’, or Wineland, because of the profusion of vines there. The first group of settlers built houses and spent a winter there. Other groups from Greenland followed.

‘Many small pioneering parties made temporary settlements in Vinland – most in fact used Leif’s vacant houses – but they invariably returned to Greenland within a few years of their arrival. The days of Viking exploration were at an end, and this last outpost was just too far from the rest of the Norse world to really blossom.

Within twenty years the Norsemen left Vinland for the last time; none of them had any idea of the significance of the colony that never quite happened…It was to be five hundred years before Europeans again set foot upon its shores, but it is fascinating to reflect that Christianity was first brought to the New World by these ancient Viking seafarers, themselves the first generation of converts among their people.’ (Churchill, p. 3)

For those of us not familiar with early American Christian history, this ‘breaking news’ may come as a surprise. Our earliest picture of Christianity coming to North America tends to have been one in which a thoroughly decent, modest English puritan held the Bible in one hand and tentatively raised his other hand half way up to heaven, pointing men to God. However, we may need to revise that picture and replace our puritan friend with a hairy, war-like bearded Viking booming out both the wrath and mercy of God!

© 2008 Lex Loizides