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General leads 150th anniversary celebrations at oldest surviving corps

General leads 150th anniversary celebrations at oldest surviving corps

General leads 150th anniversary celebrations at oldest surviving corps

22 March 2017

The General and Commissioner Cox were part of the The Music Hall to Lighthouse evening which celebrated the colourful past of Poplar Corps during the 150th anniversary weekend.

By Major Richard Mingay

Standing in the shadows of skyscrapers in the heart of London’s East End, Poplar is the oldest surviving Salvation Army corps in the world.

Originally, Poplar was known as “Number 3” corps, but Whitechapel and Bethnal Green Corps are no longer in existence. In the 1860s and 1870s the corps (or “mission post” as it began) was often frequented by The Salvation Army’s Founder, William Booth, and his family, so it was appropriate that the 150th corps anniversary weekend was led by the Army’s current international leaders, General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox.

Celebrations began with a family fun day, which saw members of the community engaging in craft activities, games and table tennis. The Timbreltastic group from Hadleigh Temple gave out timbrels, and many adults and children enjoyed a quick lesson before playing together to music.

The General and Commissioner Cox led a march from the hall to the local Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest, where an exhibition of early Poplar Corps memorabilia was on display, including one of the earliest Salvation Army flags, still bloodstained from wounds inflicted by the “Skeleton Army” – a group that opposed the early Salvation Army, often with violence.

An exhibition at the nearby Qeen Victoria Seaman's rest displays memorabilia from some of the earliest days of The Salvation Army.

At the evening “From Music Hall to Lighthouse” program, the General told the congregation: “This is where it all began. William Booth would be proud and pleased to see that The Salvation Army in Poplar is still fulfilling the mission of God; being present in the community, preaching the gospel message and meeting human need without discrimination. We cannot disconnect the gospel message from meeting those in need.”

Adding to the colour of the evening, as corps officers Majors David and Meshiel Brown welcomed the congregation to the event, held at nearby Calvary Charismatic Baptist Church, they were interrupted by an apparently worse-for-wear “Champagne Charlie” (played by Jo Cass) whose rendition of the 19th-century music hall song morphed into Bless His Name, He Sets me Free, led by vocal soloist Luke Cozens.

General Cox admitted that being in such a historic location almost gave him goose bumps but warned: “We need to promote Christ and not The Salvation Army”.

The evening reflected on the widespread influence of Poplar Corps, using on-screen video greetings and testimonies from around the world and a visual roll call of more than 200 corps officers who have served at Poplar through the years.

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