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Oamaru Corps Celebrates 140 Years

Oamaru Corps Celebrates 140 Years

Oamaru Corps celebrated its 140th anniversary over the weekend of September 2–3. The corps was founded on 2 September 1883 by Captain George Pollard and Captain Jabez White—two Salvationists historically renowned for their leadership and zeal. Oamaru was the eighth corps to be established during The Salvation Army’s first year in New Zealand.

Special guests for the weekend were Majors Denise and Ken Smith (Nelson Tasman Bays Corps) who went to training college from the corps in 1998, and historian Major Kingsley Sampson. The programme for the weekend was carefully curated around the theme of ‘Honour the Past, Celebrate the Present, Imagine the Future.’

A highlight of the weekend was a heritage bus tour facilitated by Kingsley. Described by corps officer, Captain Jocelyn Smith, as someone who ‘carries within him a passion and knowledge of Salvation Army history,’ Kingsley prepared a 40-page booklet featuring sites of historical significance to the work of The Salvation Army across the broader Waitaki District. While Oamaru Corps is the central focus of The Salvation Army’s work in the district today, the bus tour revealed broader work in Palmerston South and Duntroon.

The tour included a special afternoon tea at All Day Bay, where the original Salvation Army Hall from the small Waitaki town of Herbert was relocated and now functions as a backpacker hotel. With connections through family lines to The Salvation Army, owner Jenny Morrow generously opened the building and put on a delicious afternoon tea for the 40-plus people on the bus tour. ‘We pulled up to the Army flag waving, Shieldy dancing around and lots of balloons,’ reports Jocelyn.  

There were some very special God moments scattered through the weekend. Jocelyn explains that various displays were set up around the building with photos and historic video footage playing. ‘As we were walking around the building one of our senior women caught a glimpse of her son who had died in a car accident many years ago. We were rivetted to the screen as he shared his testimony of coming back to God. There were tears streaming down that dear woman’s face. It was one of those moments that stop you in tracks—a God moment that brought great comfort.’

The anniversary cake was cut by senior member of the corps Ian Kitto, and the youngest member of the corps 5-year-old Kane McLay. ‘This was a beautiful moment and a reflection of the intergenerational heartbeat of the corps,’ says Jocelyn. ‘We want to continue to honour and respect both ends of the age spectrum here Oamaru.’

With a full house on Sunday morning, the worship and celebration service was a significant time for the corps. ‘There was a response time with people coming forward to the mercy seat for prayer,’ reports Jocelyn. ‘It was a special reminder and modelling that this is a place for prayer and not just a place for the worst sinner or a place of disgrace, but a place to find healing and pray for your loved ones.’

Jocelyn is excited about what God is doing in Oamaru. ‘We are really looking to the future now. There is a heart of hope and expectation that now sits in the chests of the people from Oamaru Corps. We look forward to seeing what God does next!’

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