It was 140 years ago this month an army invaded Ashburton, not with guns, weapons and tin hats, but with brass instruments, bonnets and flags.
It was the Salvation Army, arriving the year following the movement’s establishment in New Zealand in 1883. Members established a church in Ashburton.
This weekend the Ashburton corps will celebrate its anniversary with events over two days.
Corps officer Lieutenant Semi Rata said the community was welcome; there would be an opportunity for people to reminisce and view the photo displays.
Retired Major Glenys Fairhurst is returning to be the guest preacher on Sunday at a church service at 10am. Fairhurst and her late husband Dean were officers in Ashburton in the early 1990s.
While the Salvation Army uniforms, building and logo have changed over the years, the organisation’s purpose remains the same.
The Salvation Army, founded by Methodist minister William Booth and his wife Catherine, began operating in the east end of London in 1865.
It grew to become an international Christian religious and charitable movement. It operates on a military pattern, fighting poverty and social and spiritual distress.
Ashburton Corp officer Lieutenant Elizabeth Walker-Ratu said the foundation of the organisation was based on supporting those in need, such as those living with addiction.
When the Booths realised other churches would not welcome those with social needs, they set up their own church.
‘‘One thing the corps has been very proud of is their current building , which took a lot of work and fundraising,’’ Walker-Ratu said.
The Ashburton building cost $50,000. It is a church, food bank and meeting rooms, on the corner of Cass and Cameron St.
‘‘While the old citadel was demolished and a new one built, which opened on November 20, 1976, the corps were very thankful that the Ashburton Methodist church allowed them to worship in their building,’’ she said.
The very first Salvation Army meeting in Ashburton may have been held in a grain store.
The Ashburton Mail reported in September 1883 a grain store had been leased to the army for three years at 100 pounds a year from Ashburton’s first mayor, Thomas Bullock.
The first two people who officially joined the church and became soldiers were William and Maggie Pollock.
Their granddaughter Margaret Aberhart and her husband Gordon, in their 80s, today still regularly attend the church.
Many of those who worshipped at the church over the last 140 years also dedicated their service to the organisation.
They include Ashburton lawyer Alistair Argyle’s grandfather, the late George Argyle, who was the bandmaster for 52 years.
The early years of the church in Ashburton saw opposition from some due to the fact it held some services on the street.
In 1897 Lieutenant ‘‘Scottie’’ Russell was summoned to appear in court for obstruction following a gathering on Burnett St one Saturday night. He was fined one pound and costs.
He refused to pay and was was arrested by Methven police Constable Pasco. Russell spent 48 hours in the Lyttelton jail.
Over the years the work of the army has been about meeting the needs of the community and adapting and changing.
The charity is involved in operating the town’s successful community foodbank.
It has offered a variety of programmes over the years including an employment programme, works skills programme, driver education, and housing for over 55-year-olds.
‘‘The door is always open and people are welcome to pop in have a cuppa and chat,’’ Walker-Ratu said.
The band has recently been revived. In its hey day, it played Christmas carols around the whole district, with the town being covered during the week and allday sessions in the country on weekends.
‘‘While society looks different today compared to 140 years ago, the needs are still the same. People are struggling and need the basics. There is addiction, loneliness and isolation in our community.
“Our work is about helping people live life, to have a fulfilling life and having God in their life.’’
– The 140th celebrations will be held at the Salvation Army church on the corner of Cass and Cameron St. Saturday is a free family fun day from 11am to 2pm. There is a barbecue, displays, fun games and a bouncy castle for the children. The service on Sunday is at 10am.