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"Skeleton Army" war with Sallies 125 years ago

The Salvation Army
Media Release

"Skeleton Army" declared war on Wellington Sallies 125 years ago

Wellington, 21 May 2008 - The "Skeleton Army" was ready to do their worst when The Salvation Army held their first public meetings in Wellington 125 years ago.

The Salvation Army's Wellington City Corps (church) was established on Sunday 17 June 1883, after the arrival from the South Island of four Salvation Army members. It was just the fourth Salvation Army church to be set up in New Zealand.

On that day they held a number of packed out public meetings at the Princess Theatre in Tory Street. Local interest ran so high that 200 people were unable to get into the afternoon service.

But all was not plain sailing. Members of the hurriedly formed "Skeleton Army" came along in an attempt to disrupt the meeting. They were following the lead of some pub and brothel owners in Britain who in 1881 - upset that The Salvation Army's Christian activities were undermining their customer base - had set up a "Skeleton Army" to get rid of the Sallies.

The British "Skeleton Army" - complete with skull and crossbones flags - threw rotten eggs, dead cats and stones at their targets, as well as administering beatings. In 1882 alone, almost 700 British Salvationists were attacked.

In Wellington things were more moderate. The "Skeleton Army" failed to stop the Sallies' inaugural meetings and the following day, three of their members appeared before a magistrate charged with creating a disturbance. Although disruptions continued for some time, The Salvation Army rapidly gained in popularity and quickly became a respected and valued part of the Wellington community.

The Salvation Army's Wellington City Corps will be celebrating 125 years of service in the capital with a round of activities between 30 May and 1 June 2008. These include a band concert at Te Papa; an historical pageant; and church services.

Wellington City Corps Captain Mark Ennever says that the church has played an important role to the city community over the years, including at times of special need such as the Depression. These days the church was catering to growing numbers of inner-city apartment dwellers.

'Being in an apartment in the city can be a lonely existence, so having a church community close at hand makes a world of difference.'

Captain Ennever says that apart from regular worship services supplemented with a band and choir, the corps also runs a brass academy for inner city school students, a play group, youth group, art group, and bowling club.

The corps has been on its current site between Vivian and Tory Streets since 1894.

Public events (all free)
Band concert, 2pm, Saturday 31 May, Te Papa foyer
Historical pageant, 7pm, Saturday 31 May, Wellington City Corps, 92 Vivian Street
Church services, 10am & 2pm, Sunday 1 June, Wellington City Corps, 92 Vivian Street (Youth Worship at 6pm)


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