History of The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army began in 1865 when William Booth, a Methodist pastor in London, gave up the comfort of his pulpit and decided to take the gospel into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.

His original aim was to send converts to established churches of the day, but soon he realised that the poor did not feel comfortable or welcome in most of the churches and chapels of Victorian England. Regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, unwashed people came to join them in worship.

Booth, thus, founded East London Christian Mission for these people in the slums of East London. It met in tents, theatres, dance halls and the outdoors and helped people with problems of hunger, homelessness and poverty. In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers, but by 1874, the number had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists. Booth assumed the title of general superintendent, with his followers calling him “General”. The converts spread out of the East End of London into neighbouring areas and then to other cities.

Booth was reading a printer's proof of the 1878 annual report when he noticed the statement “The Christian Mission is a volunteer army.” Crossing out the words “volunteer army”, he penned in “Salvation Army”. The name “The Salvation Army” was then adopted and these words became the basis of the foundation deed of The Salvation Army. From that point, converts became soldiers of Christ and were also known then as Salvationists. The “army” was furnished with uniforms, a flag, a brass band and martial music.

Booth and his wife and other officers of the Army endeavoured to expand the kingdom of God through the two-pillar directions of evangelical ministry and social ministry. Today, the work of The Salvation Army has expanded to 131 countries and areas, meeting human needs in the name of God without discrimination.

Declaration of The Founder of The Salvation Army:
“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight;
While little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight;
While men go to prison, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight;
While there is a drunkard left,
While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets,
While there remains one dark soul without the light of God,
I’ll fight –
I’ll fight to the very end!”

William Booth (1829-1912)

The Salvation Army in Hong Kong

The Salvation Army’s first service in China was to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees in Beijing in 1916. The unstable political environment made millions of people move to Beijing for food and shelter. The Salvation Army officers helped as many refugees as they could. Then, the Army rapidly extended its services in the Mainland and reached Hong Kong in 1930. 

Leading people to Christ is one of the missions of the Army. In the early days, church gatherings were held in open areas. The first corps (church) of The Salvation Army was established in 1937 in Kowloon City.

During the Sino-Japanese war in the early 1940s, the Army set up food kitchen to feed thousands of hungry refugees daily. When World War II ended in 1945, schools and orphanages were opened to meet the needs of children.

The social environment in Hong Kong became stable in the 1950s. People of Hong Kong who had fled to the Mainland during the wartime started returning home. At the same time, the civil war in China created the influx of mainlanders to Hong Kong for a better living. The Salvation Army established schools and provided social services to cope with the increasing welfare demands of the community.

In the following decades, The Salvation Army continued to expand community services and its church ministry. Schools were opened. Diversified social services were launched to meet the changing needs of the community. Corps were set up in different districts for spiritual nurturing. Emergency relief programmes were carried out in different countries in need. Recycling Programme and Family Stores were operated to promote green living and recycling for charity.

In 2015, The Salvation Army celebrated its 85 years of services in Hong Kong. Over the eight decades, The Salvation Army Hong Kong and Macau Command has grown from a small group ministering to outcast women and girls, to a multi-dimensional service organisation giving hope and support to all those in need.

The Salvation Army in China

As early as 1916, The Salvation Army commenced its services in Beijing by distributing food and providing shelters to people suffering in wars. During the following decades, hospitals and orphanages were set up in Beijing, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin and other areas providing assistance to the countless poor and orphans, until 1951 when the Army’s services were suspended in China.

The Salvation Army recommenced its presence in China in 1988 when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake occurred in Gengma County of Yunnan. Emergency relief and rehabilitation work were carried out in Qiao’ai Village. From then onwards, The Salvation Army is responsive to disaster relief in China. The Army is also dedicated to the community development in poverty stricken areas in the Mainland through programmes of infrastructure construction, education, healthcare and agriculture development. In 2011, according to the regulations of Yunnan Province, The Salvation Army had the provisional registration as a foreign NGO to serve the needy in mainland China.

The Salvation Army in Macau

The Salvation Army commenced its services in Macau in 1999 with the set up of Iao Hon Corps and Community Service Centre. In 2007, the Army established a permanent base in the north district for long-term development in the area. The Salvation Army Joy Family Integrated Service Centre, the first social services unit of the Army in Macau, was established in 2014 with the aim to provide services to the local young people and families. In 2017, The Salvation Army (Macau) Learning Centre, the Army’s first educational services unit in Macau, was established.

In 2000, the first Family Store started operations in Macau. With the support of the Macau Government, collection campaigns are launched regularly to promote Recycling Programme. Apart from resale of used materials, selected items are delivered to the needy through local non-government organsations.

A Journey of Time

By the invitation of the Hong Kong Colonial Government, The Salvation Army started serving in Hong Kong by providing residential care to the underprivileged girls and women in 1930.

The Salvation Army set up a ‘food kitchen’ to feed thousands of hungry refugees daily during the war time.

In 1947, the old Wanchai Police Station was used as The Salvation Army school, handicraft centre and church meeting place.

In 1951, the Headquarters of The Salvation Army was erected at 547-555 Nathan Road.

The former Hong Kong Governor, Sir Alexander Grantham, officiated at the opening ceremony of the then Chuk Yuen Corps and Social Services Centre in 1956.

The Salvation Army Kwong Ming Primary School was opened in 1959.

In 1960s, vocational training was one of the key foci of the Army’s social services. Haircutting, woodwork, tailoring and sewing classes were arranged for Mainland immigrants. Nursery services were provided to release women’s burden of taking care of children.

The Advisory Board was officially set up in 1970 to enhance the effectiveness of the Army’s services.

In 1973, the opening of William Booth Secondary School marked a new chapter of the Army’s educational services.

There was an influx of Vietnamese refugees to Hong Kong in 1978. The Army provided education, social welfare and religious services in two of the government refugee camps.

The Salvation Army Headquarters moved to the current premises at 11 Wing Sing Lane of Yaumatei in 1985.

The Army completed its mission of roof-top education following the closure of the Kwong Chi School in 1987. There had been a total of 10 roof-top primary schools.

The Salvation Army actively took part in emergency relief efforts, giving a helping hand to people affected by the flood in China, earthquake in Taiwan and the typhoon disaster in The Philippines.

The Army commenced poverty alleviation programmes in mainland China in the 1990s. In 1995, General Paul A. Rader visited the then Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, Mr. Chen Zi-ying.

In March 2000, the Iao Hon Corps and Community Service Centre in Macau officially opened.

2008 was the 20th anniversary of The Salvation Army Carer Service. The Service was the first of its kind in Hong Kong to provide assistance to people who have to look after the elderly (the carers). In 2003, the Carer Association was inaugurated to offer a platform for mutual aid among carers.

An amount of HK$60 million was raised to respond to the emergency and rehabilitation needs of the South Asian Tsunami in 2004.

A 4-year relief and rehabilitation programme has been carrying out since 2008 in Shifang City, Mianzhu City and Luojiang County to help restore the daily living of the Sichuan earthquake survivors.

In 2011, according to the regulations of Yunnan Province, The Salvation Army had the provisional registration as a foreign NGO to serve the needy in mainland China.

In March 2011, Japan had earthquake and tsunami. The Command sent over 300 Corps members to raise funds. More than HK$57 million was raised for emergency relief and rehabilitation services in total.

In 2014, The Salvation Army Joy Family Integrated Service Centre, the Army’s first social services unit in Macau, was established.

In 2017, The Salvation Army (Macau) Learning Centre, the Army’s first educational services unit in Macau, was established.