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Sallies still strong after 125 years

Jul 10th, 2008 | By | Category: Featured Article

When Eden and Logan Bracegirdle played their cornets at Wellington Salvation Army’s 125th anniversary concert, they probably had a feeling of déjà vu.

It was their second Sallies 125th in three months.

As members of the National Youth Band of the Salvation Army, Eden and Logan were in the Dunedin celebrations in March, then repeated the performance in Wellington last month.

Their family connections to the two regions go back to the beginning of the Salvation Army’s founding in New Zealand, with their great, great grandfather Alfred Wilkinson one of the first recruits in Dunedin in 1883.

In Wellington, both their late grandfathers, Ray Atherfold and Evan (Paddy) Bracegirdle, went on the 1968 world tour of the Wellington City Band, which was the first Australasian band to visit the US and England. The ’68 contingent was world renowned for its soloists, and their 40-year reunion was a feature of  the 125th celebration weekend.

Three generations of the family – who worship at the Wellington Corps – were represented at the Wellington weekend, including parents Selwyn and Carol Bracegirdle and grandmother Ngaire Atherfold. Selwyn was organiser of the celebration weekend programme.

From the Friday night welcome to the Sunday evening youth worship, nearly 300 people from as far afield as Europe, America and Australia shared a weekend of reminiscing, laughter, music and prayer.

“Guests from overseas shared thoughts of their family connection and its significance to them,” says Selwyn.

The Wellington City Band – whose euphonium player, Grant Pitcher, is champion regional brass band soloist – was one focus of the celebrations, with a Saturday afternoon performance at Te Papa on June 1, culminating in a march up Taranaki St to the Citadel in Jessie St.

“We don’t do much marching these days because of the safety issue,” says Captain Mark Ennever. “It’s hard getting permission from the council because of traffic, etc. We’ve got to get permission from council, police. We have to have police attending.”

He says their mission today is unchanged. They’re still reaching out into the community.

“Although there is not the level of poverty today that existed in the East End of London when William Booth started his mission in 1865, there is still plenty of opportunity for community service.”

They provide a food bank, drop-in centre, counselling, emergency accommodation, advocacy, and the two Salvation Army stores, which help to fund the community work. There is an inner city band for pupils at Mt Cook and Clyde Quay schools, a Conservation Corps for youths who have dropped out of school, a new boys’ home in Thompson St and girls’ home in Island Bay for kids who would otherwise be living on the streets.

To reach into the wider community, they offer parenting courses, the most recent on June 10 presented by Ian Grant, and their Hot Tips for Marriage courses are popular. A community playgroup for mums living in inner city apartments is a recent development.

Captain Ennever says one of the few differences between now and the origins of the Army in Wellington is they are more accepted today than when the first soldiers came from England in 1883.

“Back then, Salvationists were locked up because they wanted to change society. A group calling itself the Skeleton Army formed to disrupt the Salvationists meetings, and sometimes threw rocks and eggs.”

But now their mission to provide soup, soap and salvation is considered part of the establishment of our city.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student.
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