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"The Salvation Army was raised on a diet of faith-filled risk and outrageous innovation" - Phil Wall

Posted by Neri Morris (Admin) 6 months ago

It may seem a little strange given the age of the Salvation Army, but innovation is not a new idea for Salvos globally. A culture of pursuit to bringing hope to where it’s needed most for the glory of God has always run deep within the Salvation Army.

The roots of innovation run deep as can be seen when looking back of the long history of the Salvation Army globally. From culture changing moments like Catherine Booth firmly establishing equality for women within the Salvation Army through her 1859 pamphlet ‘Female Ministry’ which was truly ahead of its time, to launching people focussed services like Legal and Aged Care. History tells us that the Salvation Army really was raised on a ‘diet of faith-filled risk and outrageous innovation.’

Below is just some highlights of some of the most innovative initiatives the Salvos are responsible for:

-       The world’s first feature film: Operating from 1897 to 1910, The Salvation Army Limelight Department was Australia’s first film production company. Among its many achievements, The Limelight Department is credited with producing the world’s first multimedia presentation using the moving picture film technology of the day. The film, ‘Soldiers of the Cross’, was produced during 1900 and the Limelight Department also recorded the birth of the nation at Federation in 1901.

-       Australia had the world’s first Social Program: In 1883, Major James Barker led the way to establish the first Salvation Army social institution anywhere in the world on a permanent basis, known as the "Prison Gate" programme. Barker saw that prisoners being released from the Melbourne Gaol had nowhere to go and no work, so they inevitably re-offended and returned to gaol. Barker leased a small house in Lygon Street, Carlton, to provide accommodation for prisoners discharged from Melbourne's gaols. This led to the formation of the Prison-Gate Brigade, the members of which met discharged prisoners upon their release and offered them a home and the prospect of a job.

-       The Red Shield Appeal: In 1965, after a great deal of consideration and thought, the first Red Shield Appeal was run in Sydney as a doorknock. Never before had a fundraising appeal been held in the form of a doorknock, with friends and family of The Salvation Army banding together to visit homes across the city. The idea caught on like wildfire in The Salvation Army, with parts of Tasmania, Melbourne and wider Victoria holding their own “Red Shield Appeals” in the months and years afterward. The appeal inspired the best in the Australian people, who not only donated much needed funds but their time, effort and their talents.

Innovation, which can be described as a new idea, method or product, was present even in the early days of Booth’s ministry. When Booth found himself without a church to preach in, he became a travelling preacher, spreading Christianity wherever he could and on the streets. In 1865, he was invited to preach in London's East End and was provided with a piece of land on which to preach, which just so happened to be situated in a graveyard. Despite the melancholy surroundings, the graveyard sermons became a big success and the location became the first Salvationists' base of operations, providing an unlikely point of origin. 

With such a deep history of innovation, one could be forgiven for thinking innovation just naturally happens. But what we can glean from these stories is that innovation comes from those who have an idea. Who see a need, an issue or problem and have a thought or idea about how it can be addressed.

IDEAS is a platform designed to facilitate the next era of innovation for the Salvation Army.

To remain committed to our innovative roots, it was realised that there needed to be a better way to capture these ideas. So, the first Innovation Department was born and has been charged with task of enabling the growth of the innovative spirit within the Salvos.

We invite you to take a look around, share your ideas and join us in making impact possible. 

This post was edited on Aug 19, 2019 by Neri Morris

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Comments (2)

michael schreck says... 6 months ago

What a wonderful story. Great insight into the Salvos and how "innovation" has been such an important part of the Salvo's history... Also, really well-written article (nice and easy to read). Thanks Neri - I'll make sure I look for more of your articles...

Simon Fuller says... 5 months ago

The Salvation Army must innovate or become obsolete.  The world has changed a bit since 1865.  If we are effective in solving old problems then we will eliminate them and we will have to try new things to solve new problems.  If we haven't solved the old problems, then maybe our approach isn't working and we must try new things to solve those old problems.

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