THE Church of England met the Salvation Army with persecution in March 1887 when they first came to the town, but 125 years later, they were welcomed with open arms as the town marked the anniversary with a thanksgiving service at the town’s parish church.
Rain failed to dampen spirits on Sunday as friends past and present came together to celebrate the anniversary of the Horsham branch.
An open air service with the brass band in the Carfax was rained off, but still about 50 people gathered there before a procession down The Causeway to the packed parish church.
There Salvation Army church leaders and members, were joined by church leaders from across the town as well as chairman of Horsham District Council Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), the Bishop of Horsham Mark Sowerby and Salvation Army international secretaries for Europe Commissioners Robert and Janet Street.
The Rev Guy Bridgewater, vicar of St Mary’s Church, welcomed The Salvation Army and the Worthing Citadel Band led the congregation as they sang hymns and two songs especially written for the service.
Guests spoke of the importance of the Salvation Army’s work in the town.
Mrs Vickers said: “To those of faith and those of none, the Salvation Army carries the highest reputation as a force for good and we have been more than fortunate to have had their presence here in Horsham for such a long time.
“It would be remiss of me not to make special mention of the totally dedicated Captains Ian and Sue Woodgate, who have been at the helm for the last two and a half years,
“Working tirelessly and enthusiastically, they have made a real difference to our community, not least by offering invaluable support to those in need.
“The sort of help that perhaps an outsider would not think was necessary in a place like Horsham.”
Several people who attend the weekly Hope In sessions for people in financial difficulty read out their own poems reflecting their thanks for the work of the Salvation Army in their lives.
Brain Steele from Horsham Churches Together spoke of the unity of the churches in Horsham and how the Salvation Army ‘humanises’ God’s work in the town.
Cmm’r Robert Street gave the sermon speaking about the importance of close relationships.
“Life is about relationships with each other and with the community, as we have heard this afternoon.
“In the church we have fellowship in Christ and without relationships life is meaningless.
“We are here to contribute to each others’ lives,” he said.
The celebrations are continuing throughout the year with a packed calendar of events.