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Ringing the Bell

Today I spent some time with other church folks ringing the bell for Salvation Army at Wal-Mart. It was about 15 degrees out today in Central New York, and I ended up with a chill that was hard to get rid of for the rest of the day, and a sneaking suspicion that my throat is a bit sore, despite my attempt to bundle up today. (I'm usually not the coat-wearing type.)

Aside from the cold, I had a good time ringing the bell. The Salvation Army has a theology more conservative than my own, but I really admire the hands-on work they do. The other day I ran across the quote, ascribed both to Charles Dickens and Mahatma Gandhi - not sure which is correct - "There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread."

At least in my community, the Salvation Army is the group of people of faith who runs the soup kitchen, has a food pantry, provides emergency shelter, helps people connect with the right social service agencies, hands out thanksgiving baskets and christmas toys, gives out school supplies, and leads after-school programs. Not to say that they are the only group doing such outreach - but they are certainly the leaders. That's why our church, and most others in the community, are happy to help feed into and support their programs in the community. They're already doing what I wish we were doing more of in my congregation.

Today, ringing the bell, it was fun to watch how people approached (or didn't approach...) the red kettle. I appreciated especially the children who were thrilled to "get to" put money in the red kettle, and appreciated those parents who were already cultivating an attitude of joy of giving in their young kids. I noticed that those who seemed, by outward appearances at least, least able to give were the most likely to give. But people of all kinds would stop to give. I laughed at the little boy - maybe two - who found a quarter on the ground. His mother encouraged him to give the quarter to the kettle, but he said, "Nah!" A little girl waiting with her mother for a taxi for about 1/2 an hour got permission first to run over to me to say "Merry Christmas" and then to come put a dollar in.

Are the kettles out in your community? Wal-Mart is not my favorite place, but I'm glad that they continue to allow the Salvation Army to ring out front.


wonderful post thanks

Blessed Advent to you
Scott said…
Did you know that William Booth was a Methodist minister whose ministry was not really accepted... he left the church and founded the Salvation Army... later people began to appreciate what he was doing...

unfortunately i have not been involved with a Methodist church yet that desires to do on a regular basis what the Salvation Army does all the time...

I admit I have never gone to a worship service, although they have worship every week... maybe one of these days I will make it.
Anonymous said…
Cool. I actually grew up going to a Salvation Army church. Most people aren't even aware they they have worship services and such. One major deal though is that they don't believe in celebrating the sacraments. It's interesting how it came about as well, since it was partly due to the fact that poor people we're being denied communion in the well-off churches. So in response the Salvation Army came up with a theological justification for not doing them. It wasn't the only reason for their rejection of the sacraments, but it was one of them. It's an interesting ethical concept though when you consider that Booth's ethic in regards to poverty, helped shape his theology.

Anyway, glad you had fun bell ringing :)
Anonymous said…
I really like this post. Thank!
Anonymous said…
ucm is correct.

The story of Gen. William Booth and the Salvation Army is amazing.

The way I have always heard it, Booth and group of methodists starting taking care of poor and decrepid souls in the London inner city. They started cleaning them up and they were given some old military uniforms for clean clothing since some of these folks had nothing but rags to wear. They started a ministry, with the poorest of the poor, but they "stuck out" and it was a thorn in the side of the "hoity-toity" upper class methodists in London. They got the Bishop to move Booth to an out to the way church out in the country. Booth pushed back saying that the ministry would founder if he left Longon. The Bishop was furious that Booth, a pastor, was defying his authority. Booth then walked out of the methodist church for good.

Today, the Salvation Army Church is on every continent of the Globe. The Methodist Church in England is almost non-existent.

This is a footnote in the history of Methodism that we should be proud of, but God's Will be done one way or the other.
LutheranChik said…
In my area (the Salvation Army has a presence in rural America, a fact which some may not know), one of the good things the Salvation Army does with its kettle money is help poor people pay their utility bills -- which is a very needed service here in the upper Midwest this winter. I don't agree with a great chunk of Salvation Army theology, and I don't think they like me very much, but I admire their "boots on the ground" community work.
Andy B. said…
But don't you get a little Edgar Allen Poe with the bells? The incessant ringing of the bells - clamor, clanging and all that! ;)
Andy B.
Greg Hazelrig said…
I used to live near Memphis, TN and they were there. I live near Greenville, MS now and even out here in the booneys they are hard at work ringing at the Wal-Mart.

Well, actually, I don't know if I would say hard at least not the one I saw yesterday. It was actually comical to see a very skinny man dressed in a Santa Suit leaning against the wall, very lazily ringing the bell and not saying a word. I thought to myself, Santa's having a bad day today. I wonder if the elves kept him up too late last night. :)
Beth Quick said…
Follow up - today I was at the mall, and sat for a while watching the two kettle stations in the food court. Not very many people stopping today. I think being outside in the cold, our station got more of the "poor cold person" pity donation!

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