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Invercargill Corps 140th Anniversary

Invercargill Corps 140th Anniversary

It was a party in the south on September 9 and 10 when Invercargill Corps marked its 140th  anniversary.

Friends and officers from Invercargill and many parts of the country gave all glory to God as they celebrated 14 decades of the Army serving the city’s spiritual and community ministry needs. The theme ‘Going Forward with God’ reflected the resolve to continue marching steadfastly into the future.

Special guests for the weekend were members of The Salvation Army Territorial Youth Band under Bandmaster Duncan Horton, as well as the band’s executive officers, Captains Shane and Sarah Healey. For them it was a return home, as Invercargill was where they first met.   

Southland turned on the sunshine on Saturday when the band played in the grounds of the former emergency shelter hostel, previously the Dee St Hospital nurses’ home. The hostel has been closed for several years but ground-floor facilities were open to view.

The band then played in central Invercargill’s Esk Street, watched by a good number of Army folk and members of the public. The site was near where open-airs of past years were regularly held, and where General William Booth preached during visits to the city.

Band members were whisked off to Bluff for photographs at the Stirling Point signpost marking the southern end of State Highway 1. Bluff also has a special place in Salvation Army history, as this was where founding officers Captain George Pollard and Lieutenant Edward Wright first made landfall in New Zealand on Easter Monday 1883.

A concert at the Invercargill Worship Centre on Saturday night attended by around 100 people featured the youth band plus local items. A particular highlight was a moving bracket from the band centred on the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. There was time for mixing and mingling over supper, and many took the opportunity to inspect the memorabilia and historic photographs displayed in the auditorium and foyer.

More than 180 people filled the auditorium for Sunday’s lively service led by retired officers, Majors John and Kay Richards, who entered training college from Invercargill. Songs from the Army’s earliest times to today peppered the meeting and links to the past were highlighted by John. Invercargill’s congregation has a few families who can trace their Salvation Army roots back to Invercargill’s first 25 years, while John said his Army connections went back even further to 1882. His great aunt was Miss Arabella Valpy of Dunedin, who sent General Booth £200 and urged him to send officers to New Zealand. While Miss Valpy never joined The Salvation Army herself, many of her extended family did, including five descendants who became officers.   

John’s message was a powerful reminder that that the values and expectations of Salvationists are the same now as they ever were, to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbour as yourself’.

Current Invercargill Corps Officers Majors Murray and Wendy Sanson acknowledged Bruce Heather, who is retiring after many years of service in Family Store management roles, in court and prison ministry, and as envoy in charge of the Waimate Corps for a time with his wife Ann. John Beckham and Mary Allott were presented with certificates and Long Service pins in recognition of their 50-plus year contributions to banding in Invercargill.

Before lunch, the celebration cake (beautifully decorated by Mary Allott) was cut by the oldest soldier on the roll, Dorothy Lemin, and nine-year-old Mia Templeton.

What a wonderful weekend! Invercargill will indeed go forward with God.

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