Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

October 17, 2006 > Field rations for the soul

Field rations for the soul

The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others.
-Dag Hammarskjold
Swedish diplomat (1905 - 1961)

They were poor, unwashed and yet still loved by Minister William Booth in 1865. Booth's original intent was to help the underprivileged population of London, England at the street level and direct them to churches where their spiritual needs could be addressed. Unfortunately, he found that trying to include shabbily dressed street people with other churchgoers appalled Victorian parishioners and was untenable. Booth decided to open a church, the East London Christian Mission, especially for the disenfranchised. In 1878, rewording an annual report for the mission, Booth's son Bramwell modified the title by replacing the word "volunteer," creating the phrase, "Salvation Army." He noted that he felt compelled to serve as part of an army of Salvationists rather than a volunteer.

Structured in a similar fashion to armed forces, this group spread around the world without hostility or firing a shot. Uniforms, flags and ranks are evident in this army, but the cause is decidedly nonviolent - to spread evangelical thought and actions, interwoven with practical social assistance for those in need. "With heart to God and hand to man" is a guiding principal for the Salvation Army. This army knows that without satisfying basic needs of those seeking help, positive and permanent change is unlikely. At the core lies a commitment to help all who seek assistance with food, shelter, clothing and safety.

The Tri-Cities of Fremont, Newark and Union City are served by husband and wife, Captains Julius and Shannon Murphy, both commissioned and ordained as officers (ministers) in 2003.  As part of an international organization, both feel strength in the core values and beliefs of the Salvation Army on a worldwide scale, but stress that they are dedicated to the local community and local fundraising activities that remain within their jurisdiction. Capt. Julius Murphy notes that many "see only one aspect of the Salvation Army with little idea of who we are and what we do." Julius should know the many sides of the Salvation Army since he has been a part of its services since age 3.

Much more than bell ringers and collection kettles during the Christmas season, ministering to communities around the world is a mission of 365 days every year. Capt. Murphy says that his army knows how to "stretch a donated dollar as far as possible." He notes that while many people may think much of their donation might end up in administrative costs or in other communities around the world, each mission is responsible for its own community and over 80 percent of the funds collected go directly to local citizens in need and disaster relief.

In addition to worship services, the local Salvation Army center is a center for food distribution, emergency support and services, youth programs, and special events. A recently completed summer day camp was extremely successful as was a new program called "Cycle for Success" in which 60 youngsters who showed outstanding behavior at school and in their daily activities were rewarded with a brand new bicycle. The Salvation Army also coordinates an annual "Shopping Spree" hosted by Mervyn's department store during which selected schoolchildren and young adults are paired with community volunteers from many organizations to shop for the new school clothes and gear. Another annual event is the Fall Festival held on Saturday, Oct. 21 from noon to 3:00 p.m. at the Salvation Army headquarters in Newark. Food, games, music, a jump house and lots of fun will be waiting for everyone to join in for this free event.

Of course, one of the most visible Salvation Army activities will soon ring in the sounds of the holiday season. Behind the scenes, preparations are made for distribution of Thanksgiving and Christmas meal "fixins" while bell ringers remind shoppers of the army that has been serving society for over 100 years. The "Christmas Kettle" is actually an American innovation. It began in 1891 in San Francisco when Capt. Joseph McFee resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the poor of the area. The Captain remembered a large pot used for charitable collections in Liverpool, England and copied the idea, using a tripod and crab pot.

Ferry passengers were asked to "keep the pot boiling" and they did. By 1895, the idea had spread to 30 locations on the West Coast and, although initially it met some resistance by corps who felt it would be unseemly, its success could not be denied. Now, kettles are used throughout the world and for many, the holiday season would be hollow without the sights and sounds of the bell ringers standing beside a collection kettle.

For those who want to enlist their services or support the Salvation Army, there are many volunteer opportunities and financial assistance is always welcome. Capt. Murphy says that the center's doors are open to those who would like to come by and see for themselves. For others who will soon hear and see Salvation Army volunteers beside kettles in the coming months, a brief pause and contribution should bring a smile knowing that your generosity will help maintain social and spiritual support for our community, and for an army that marches to the rhythm of the sweet tones of bells.

The Salvation Army
Tri-Cities Corps Community Center
36700 Newark Blvd., Newark
(510) 793-6319

Hayward Corps
Majors Robert & Miriam Keene
430 "A" St., Hayward
(510) 581-6444

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