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Spreading the Good News for 140 Years

Spreading the Good News for 140 Years

The Salvation Army has a rich and varied history which is preserved at the Heritage and Archives Centre (Plowman Resource Centre). This article looks at how our territorial magazine has changed over 140 years, from the very first issue in 1883 as The War Cry.

This publication was called, until very recently, War Cry (The War Cry in its origin), for 140 years. The War Cry was a relevant name at the time as military terms were used frequently by Salvationists as spiritual language. For example, the first edition of The War Cry on 16 June 1883, repeatedly used the term ‘open fire’ when referring to preaching the Word of God. The Salvation Army still honours its history, while acknowledging that SALT: Salvation Army Life and Times is appealing to an audience who may be unfamiliar with the military metaphors used throughout Salvation Army history.

In the 16 June 1883 issue, there was a section titled ‘Why do we need a “War Cry?”’ by Captain George Arthur Pollard, which explained its spiritual mission and purpose: ‘To help us publish Salvation. This is our life’s business. We’re Salvation people, saved ourselves, and seeking the Salvation of all around us. We intend filling The War Cry with Salvation news, and that alone’.

The War Cry in 1883 was in a newspaper format, with text spread over four pages and no images. It was always intended to be another form of evangelism or outreach, being sold in different parts of society, such as pubs. Fight the Good Fight: The Story of The Salvation Army in New Zealand 1883–1983 by Cyril R. Bradwell, notes:

The Salvation Army saw great value in keeping its converts busily and happily occupied, but it believed also in the power of the written word to both evangelise and inform. The New Zealand War Cry, from its first issue on 16 June 1883, set out to cater for all tastes. Lively descriptions of corps activities, articles by William and Catherine Booth, books and other items on sale from the new ‘Trade Department’, news from overseas, features on the careers of outstanding officers and soldiers, challenging articles for the man-in-the-street, songs and poems written by anyone who cared to send them in—these were some of the ingredients which attracted a large readership both inside and outside the Army’s ranks.

The first issue featured varied content: a description of the purpose of publishing The War Cry, the origin story of The Salvation Army, a written sermon by Catherine Booth, corps activities, notices and upcoming events, poetry, international updates and the General’s Address. Although some aspects of the publication are no longer being produced in the same way, testimonies and written sermons, for example, are still an essential part of the magazine and are still published in every edition today.

With the arrival of The Salvation Army in New Zealand, the publishing of The War Cry was an important way to spread the good news of Christ to a wider audience. In an age before instant messaging and information at our fingertips, this publication was also an important way to inform people about what was happening within The Salvation Army in New Zealand and worldwide. Although SALT looks a lot different to the very first issue of The War Cry, the original mission of reaching people for God through storytelling is the same today.

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