‘We’ve come a long way’: Salvation Army celebrates 125 years in P.A.

Major Shawn Critch, divisional commander, speaks to the congregation during their 125 year anniversary, as Captain Laura Van Schaik, who now leads the congregation, looks on. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

Saturday, as the soldiers of the Salvation Army celebrated a 125-year presence in Prince Albert, captain Laura Van Schaik read a letter. It came all the way from London, England.

“A celebratory occasion such as this offers a timely opportunity to reflect on the past, remembering those salvationists who helped establish the Salvation Army in your community, through their commitment and courage,” the letter read.

The letter was penned by André Cox, who holds the title of General of the Salvation Army, the organization’s highest post. He thanked God for the good works that generations of salvationists have done in Prince Albert, and urged today’s congregation to continue their calling among the city’s needy.

“We must look forward with faith on this 125th anniversary,” he said. “I challenge you as a corps family to embrace every opportunity for mission and ministry that the Lord sends your way.”

Van Schaik savoured that message. “The general himself,” she said. The honour helped launch a night of song and celebration, where a lineup of speakers told the 125-year story of the Prince Albert corps.

Cox sent his letter from across the sea. But other dignitaries came in person. Major Shawn Critch carried greetings from divisional headquarters in Winnipeg. He asked the congregation to “build on the strength and courage of those who have gone before you.”

There have been many, but the very first were captains Mary Rennie and Alice Gooding. They took their message to the lumber camps around the booming town. Today, those camps are long gone, and their successors work in the prisons, in seniors’ programs and in the thrift shop on Central Avenue.

Councillor Evert Botha bought a pair of pants at that thrift shop some six years ago. He wore them to the ceremony on Saturday. He said the Salvation Army has helped immigrants like him settle into Prince Albert.

“For us as immigrants, when we come to Canada… one of the first places we get told to go to is to the thrift stores,” he told the congregation. “We very seldom arrive with more than two suitcases. Some of of our fellow brothers and sisters arrive with the clothes on their back.”

For more on this story, see the Tuesday, October 31 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.