Recruiting Sergeant Nigel Day reports:
On a bright sunny day seven of us met at Chatham Station for our trip to William Booth College at Denmark Hill in London as an ongoing part of the recruits’ introduction to The Salvation Army and in particular it’s heritage. The party included Joe Scott, Rebecca Abbott, Leslie Bell, Allan Hardinge and the Recruiting Sergeant Team – Margaret and Nigel Day and Debbie Abbott.
L to R: Leslie, Allan, Rebecca, Margaret, Debbie, Joe
We were met by Major Diane Kinsey, the Assistant Territorial Candidates Director, who was our guide for the day. After an explanatory talk on the history of the College, which was opened in 1929, and the modernisation undertaken just a couple of years ago we started on the tour.
First we were shown the new community hub, where Cadets normally gather after lessons to share fellowship together, before looking at the Prayer Room. Then on to the Assembly Hall with further explanation of its function and history including the impressive display of old Session Flags. As there are too many flags the oldest 20 or so, which are now too fragile to put out, are kept in storage.
This was followed by a tour of some of the classrooms and larger rooms with all the electronic equipment needed to teach in the 21st century. The well-stocked Library was next and then on to the various offices – the Training Principal, SISTAD (School for in Service Training and Development), the Candidates Unit and of course the School for Officer Training.
Lunch was taken in the spacious Dining Room and we were then privileged to be shown the adjacent relaxation room and the extremely well equipped Nursery and JAM (Jesus and Me group) rooms. These cater for the often substantial number of children of the Cadets who all live on the College site; last year there were nearly 20 children altogether.
Finally, we used the original 1929 lift, which has been used in various films and TV programmes such as Poirot, because of its authenticity, to reach the third floor of the main teaching block. This took us straight into the Heritage Centre which houses a vast wealth of Salvation Army material from all over the world. The displays and interactive computer and video screens gave us a comprehensive insight into the origins and development of The Salvation Army since its inception in 1865.
The breadth of the Army’s work was breath-taking and the hardships that the early day members suffered were very poignant, we have much to thank them for. There are also countless archived books including a full set of Songster music since 1887 and Bible Reading notes from the early 20th century. A huge number of old books, ledgers, accounts and biographies were also available to read, if we only had enough time!
A thoroughly enjoyable and insightful day and well worth anybody interested in the Salvation Army’s background taking a trip to the Heritage Centre which is open Tuesday to Friday each week.