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Crest or shield?

Crest or shield?

Crest or shield?

6 February 2019

So which best symbolises the Army, its message and its ministry? Which emblem best tells the Army story?

By David Kelly

Clearly there are strong feelings regarding which symbol – the red shield or the crest – best represents The Salvation Army.

By policy, the red shield is used for all external purposes, because it is the most recognisable Army emblem in the world.

It is known in every country in which the Army serves and represents the compassionate service that impacts the lives of people, often at the time of their greatest need.

The crest is loved by Salvationists and continues to be used internally because there is more reference to what we believe, including our faith, our doctrine and our covenant.

For different reasons and in different settings, each has its place.

So which best symbolises the Army, its message and its ministry? Which emblem best tells the Army story? Truthfully, neither of these.

If we are relying on artwork to symbolise what is great about The Salvation Army, then neither is going to accomplish what we need.

To the best of my knowledge, neither symbol has ever led someone into a saving relationship with Jesus. Neither symbol can fully tell the motivation behind our work; neither can reveal the depth of commitment that so embodies frontline ministry.

So, if not these emblems, where do we look for the best symbols of our Army? Try looking at the single officer serving alone in a small community, yet fully engaged in the lives of her people and the community.

Try looking at the long-time bandmaster known for their excellence in musicianship, but who expresses more emotion while telling of the growth and transformation in the youth they have mentored.

Try looking at the employee at the recovery services centre who can’t wait to share the good news that three residents came to faith tonight. Try looking at the Salvationist who, after reading on Facebook about a fellow Salvationist needing a kidney, gave one of hers.

Try looking at the faithful Salvos Stores volunteer who affirms the worth of all those they greet and serve. Try looking at the quiet, unassuming soldier who is always the first to welcome visitors to the corps.

Try looking at the young person who is not afraid to share their faith with friends, despite a culture that seeks to demean such belief. Try looking at the corps officers throughout your territory, who, even in the midst of challenges and hardship, still serve faithfully.

Those soldiers, employees, volunteers and adherent members are the best symbols of The Salvation Army. They are the emblems of who we are and what we do.

Let’s stop the debate between crest and shield and settle on a better representation.

Let’s each be the best symbol of The Salvation Army we can be – in the way we live, in the way we unconditionally love others, in the way we serve, in the way we invest our lives in those around us.

The crest and shield can never tell the Army story that a transformed life can tell.

Lieut-Colonel David Kelly is the Secretary for Communications in the United Kingdom with the Republic of Ireland Territory. This article first appeared in Salvationist (UK) magazine.


  1. Elizabeth Albiston
    Elizabeth Albiston

    Dear Colonel, I beg to differ. The Crest, says it all about who The Salvation Army is and why it is. Granted the Red Shield (originally only used with military troupes, war and emergency services ) is widely known, but more as a type of of Red Cross outfit. The Crest however tells why we do what we do and is a w wonderful opportunity to explain it's meaning. The day The Army gets rid of the Branding mentality the better. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater does nothing, in fact from the time TSA started to use outsourced consultants was the day TSA started dwindling in numbers here in Australia. Thankfully there seems a glimmer of hope on the horizon as TSA gets back to its roots of Ministry and Mission hand in hand, not one department separate from another. My prayer (as a former Salvationist and now an Anglican) is that The Salvation Army will dare to be different, will dare to be visible in ministry outside four walls and care to let go of the notion of Political correctness. What happened to the courage of our forebears who marched and preached regardless of the cost?
    In good will,

  2. I agree with Elizabeth. The Crest is what our religion is based on. It was thoughtfully created with the Crown on top, the swords, the Gospel Shots plus the banner of Salvation
    Memory sadly fails me now, but it was a Directory class many years ago that i learned pf the reasoning behind the Crest.
    The shield was drawn up for War Services use, and as far as i can recall, did not have any spirtiual meaning at all.
    Our young people are missing out on two very significant programmes that we used to have; Corps Cadets, and Directory Classes.
    A pity, really!

  3. I certainly hope people are not getting caught up in making a decision about one vs. the other! That would be tragic! On a broader level, we live in a world that encourages us to take an "either / or" view of things. We see the negative effect of this mindset in the world every day. Issues can take on a completely different flavour, however, when viewed with a "both / and" mindset. Certainly the shield is a symbol of branding, and highly recognizable. The crest is a statement of principles and foundation and certainly could also be used more purposefully externally to open up the conversation of who The Salvation Army is and what it stands for. I personally think there is a lot to do to shift the perception from the SA being a social services organization only, to the SA is first a Christian church, that has a mission and commitment to providing social services when and where needed. The key question is, when the SA is at its very best, how does it "show up" in the world on a day to day basis - then seize every opportunity to spread the gospel through the most effective ministry channels.

  4. I can only agree with the three replies I have seen to this article rather than much of the article itself. Both symbols like it or not have a purpose, the crest having in my opinion the most important. The sheild only truly came to be because of a split in America in 1884 after a dispute between General William Booth and Major Thomas E. Moore. The split ended up in Thomas Moore creating the 'Salvation Army of America' (later becoming American Rescue Workers). The Crest was caught up in this mess and the Salvation Army of America copyrighted it to its own organisation (as English copyright didn't cover international waters) leaving the International Salvation Army without a Symbol. That's why early crests in america have an Eagle instead of the Crown. This was until the copyright was up, and then the International Salvation Army copyrighted it in America as it's own (Little history lesson there for you). In the mean time the Sheild was promptly copyrighted internationally. The sheild however does nothing to resemble The Salvation Army's faith in God to people outside. There is no Christian reference except the word Salvation, which in today's world does not directly link it to Jesus' saving grace. Elizabeth couldn't have put it better, 'Throwing the baby out with the bathwater really does nothing'. Yes we can go out and spread the word to those we meet and work with, love and care for everyone but there are times when the very presence of our Citadels in towns and cities resembling not only a place for assistance but as a Place of Worship is required. Here in the UK you can't go from one Corps and then go to another Corps 20 miles away and still feel you are in The Salvation Army. For those of us who truely regard every teaching and believe in the Army's mission would have never and will still never regard the Crest as obsolete or off puting to the public any more than the sheild is. The sheild has its purpose and yes it is recognisable but not as a reference to Christian teachings. The Cross is the most important reminder to Christians around the world and we as Salvationists remember that it was the Salvation of Jesus Christ upon the Cross. We dont place Jesus on our Cross or leave an empty Cross, rather a 'S' for Salvation is draped upon the cross. For Jesus is no longer on the Cross but has risen and saved us from our sins. I hold both symbols with high regard and would never want to see either dissappear, but as pure signs on the outside of a building great thought should be given to the Army's mission in God's work.

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