Heroes of Christianity: William Booth
The story of William Booth
by Janice Ross
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the life of William Booth and the establishment of the Salvation Army.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Heroes of Christianity: William Booth) and the means to display them.
- Have available the YouTube video ‘Felixstowe Salvation Army Band and the International Staff Band’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 17.44 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTrA6f2f22o
- Optional: you may wish to arrange for a student to read the Bible passage, James 2.14-17, in the ‘Assembly’, Step 6.
- Show Slide 1.
Ask the students, ‘Can anyone identify this symbol?’
Point out that it is the symbol for a shop called a pawnbroker’s, which works as a kind of loan shop. If customers need money fast, they can offer the pawnbroker an item of value - such as jewellery, coins or computers - in exchange for cash on the spot. The pawnbroker then keeps the item for an agreed length of time and if the customer acquires enough money again, they can return to buy back the item.
The symbol of three golden balls was the family crest of the wealthy Italian banking family, the Medicis. Throughout the Middle Ages, coats of arms used this symbol to signify monetary success.
- In the nineteenth century, there was a huge divide between rich and poor. The rich were extremely well-off and lived in large houses with lots of money for luxuries, but there were many other people who were very poor and lived in slum dwellings, unable to afford to feed their families.
- Poverty-stricken Victorians often resorted to pawnbrokers to survive. They would bring in something of small value in return for money to pay rent or buy food. They had a certain amount of time to repay the loan and retrieve the item; otherwise, the pawnbroker would sell it on.
- Today’s assembly is about a man who started his working life in a pawnbroker’s in the early nineteenth century. This man, William Booth, saw many poor people coming into the shop. Some were so destitute that they left their blankets with the pawnbroker, even though it was the middle of winter. The misery and poverty of these people really distressed Booth and he was determined to help in some way.
- There were two things that Booth was passionate about doing: telling people about the love of God and showing them the love of God. Booth believed that faith and action had to go hand in hand.
- Show Slide 2.
Wlliam Booth thought that these verses in the Bible were very important.
Read out the words on the slide, or ask a student to do so.
In other words, it is no good just to talk the talk about God, we must walk the walk and take action too.
- Booth and some of his friends began by holding meetings in the open air. They invited passers-by to come and listen, and join in singing hymns. Booth spoke to them about God, and told them that God loved and cared for all of them.
Not everyone agreed with Booth, and the group often had stones and rotten food thrown at them. However, a friend of Booth’s, Charles Fry, came up with an idea. He and his three sons all played instruments, so they offered to bring them along to help with the singing. They would also act as bodyguards at the rowdy meetings. It worked! The cheerful music seemed to reduce the tension and also drowned out any shouts and abuse.
Booth and his friends soon learned about the needs of the community and did everything that they could to help the poor.
- Show Slide 3.
Over time, Booth’s band of musicians and helpers became known as the Salvation Army. The organization is still active today, helping people in need. Salvation Army bands are often heard playing Christmas carols in towns and cities in December.
- Here are some of today’s Salvation Army musicians.
Show a short extract of the YouTube video ‘Felixstowe Salvation Army Band and the International Staff Band’ (17.44 minutes long).
Time for reflection
As people began to see that the Salvation Army not only wanted to sing and talk about God, but also wanted to help the poor, many joined them.
One day, a stranger came to William Booth’s office and gave him a cheque for £2,000! The stranger told him that he had been walking in London when he saw a man struggling to load his barrow with scrap iron. It was a heavy load. As the stranger watched, a gentleman wearing a silk hat came over, took off his coat and hat, rolled up his sleeves and helped the man to load his barrow. He walked off before anyone could thank him. The stranger explained that he had made enquiries and discovered that the gentleman was William Booth. This led the stranger to seek out Booth and give him the cheque, saying, ‘If that is what the Salvation Army stands for, I count it my privilege to help.’
Reflect for a few moments on the many ways in which the Salvation Army are still serving today.
Reflect on how you, like William Booth, could meet a need with action.
Thank you for the life of William Booth.
Thank you also for the amazing work of the Salvation Army over the years.
Thank you for all those who care for others.
Please help us to follow their example and do all that we can to help those in need.
Any Salvation Army band music. You could use an extract from the YouTube video ‘Felixstowe Salvation Army Band and the International Staff Band’, which is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTrA6f2f22o (17.44 minutes long)
- You may wish to research the work of the Salvation Army in your local area. Further information about the Salvation Army is available at: https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/