Salvation Army walks the walk and talks the talk

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I’m a huge fan of the Salvation Army.

Most denominations have a charitable arm. The Salvation Army is a charity with a denominational arm.

I didn’t even realize it was an actual denomination (and not simply a social service agency), until I walked past a Salvation Army temple in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I once lived. That’s despite the fact that my mom used to work in one of the organization’s thrift stores.

The Salvation Army’s emphasis on doing God’s work, rather than simply preaching about that work, is commendable. And unlike a lot of other, historically Christian entities, it hasn’t felt the need to disavow its roots, or distance itself from an overtly Christian faith, in order to pursue its societal goals.

Salvation Army members whom I’ve engaged in spiritual conversation don’t push “God talk,” but when the subject does come up there’s no evasive reference to an unknown deity, or to all paths leading to the same mountaintop. They’re unafraid to speak the name of Jesus.

And while the chaplain’s office at the historically Christian university I once attended is now festooned with rainbow flags and Black Lives Matter posters (the new measure of compassion, of “getting it”), the Salvation Army eschews political activism of either the left or right. It’s simply too busy helping people, actually, to engage in ideological campaigns that are supposedly about helping people.

As an Orthodox priest, such sobriety and dedication is something I’m grateful my parish can tag onto. For the past year, we’ve served a meal through the Salvation Army every other month. They facilitate these meals five nights a week, but we’ve been privileged to show up on one, lay out our spread, and — at their invitation — sing the “Our Father” in Orthodox liturgical tones. We’re able to serve the Lord, without having to deny we know him.


These past two weekends, we’ve also partaken of another of their ministries that we do each year: ringing bells beside those famous red kettles in front of grocery stores across America. This may not be giving food directly to a hungry person, but it does mean hungry people will be fed, sheltered and clothed this Christmas season — things the rest of us take for granted.

During the 40 days before Christmas, Orthodox Christians still keep the ancient fast of Advent — and I encourage myself and my parishioners to see feeding the hungry as an essential part of our fast. After all, early church fathers said money not spent on meat should be used to feed the poor. To fast without this love is something Satan, who never eats, does already.

So thank you, Salvation Army, for allowing other Christians to better practice their faith — and for allowing me to put on a red apron and wish a gentle “Merry Christmas” to hundreds of strangers, without feeling I’m doing anything wrong.

Fr. Barnabas Powell


Mary9/28/2017 6:43 am
Orthodox belief, charity, and non-conformism is 2000 years old, which makes it 1865 years older then the SA. So, who should do the learning?
And as for their charity, I saw them scream at the tiny, fragile old lady for reaching for a second piece of bread. I'll never forget the hatred that convulsed their faces. It was awful! And it was the same day that they filled the commercial size garbage container with garbage bags full of bread.
As an Orthodox Christian, I was brought up knowing that it's a sin to through bread to the garbage. And even greater sin-denying food to the hungry while it goes to waste.
That lady died of starvation, weighting 30lb at her death.
Peter12/31/2016 10:14 pm
Thank you John. I was hoping someone would write something like this. The Salvation Army is arguably more of a cult than a "denomination". I don't know why so many Orthodox clergy (and a lot of them converts) don't feel the need to promote the traditions of the Church, but prefer to use other sects, confessions, etc as their examples of piety. Converts to the faith (along with those raised in the Church) should live and breathe the traditional piety and life of the Church for many years before even being considered for ordination.
Anthony12/31/2016 7:20 pm
I recently saw a job advert for the Salvation Army, and one of the criteria was that you had to be a Christian! Good to know there are some organisations that have indeed remained true to their beliefs. I haven't yet heard of some malcontent ''rights'' organisation suing them, although that may be yet to come. Oh and they do have a hauntingly beautiful orchestra at Christmas time.
John12/31/2016 4:51 pm
The Salavation Army is not just a charity, but a sect of Christianity, whose beliefs are contrary to the Truth. They use the money they get to not only ferd the hungry, but mostly to promote their proselytizing.

Promoting the Salvation Army is like promoting to Southern Baptist Convention (both are charitable and hold similar beliefs).

Orthodox Christians should do their own charity, not promote heretical sects.
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