Song a week music blog entry No.12 – marking the life and passion of one of the Victorian era’s truly great men General William Booth. I give you ‘Wounded Shoes’. From a street corner outside of The Blind Beggar Pub to the four corners of the globe.
I bring you the East End’s General William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army.
Bible bashers. Mildly annoying at parties when hijacking conversations with inane debates as to whether God could create a rock he couldn’t lift, and downright dangerous when employed to oversee the foreign policy of the richest nation on earth.
But whether you’re in or out, whether you love them or hate them, whether you’ve turned from your life to follow Jesus or whether the only Jew that’s made you want to turn from life is Bette Midler halfway through ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’, you can’t deny the impact of General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. A man who gave a damn but didn’t give an inch. And all started here outside the Blind Beggar Pub in Whitechapel.
William Booth was brought up in Nottingham and at the age of 13 his dad went bust. He got pulled outside of school and got sent to work as an apprentice pawnbroker.
At 15 he got converted to Christianity and developed a passion for the Bible and evangelising. He eventually moved down to London to try and find work and began preaching at outdoor events in Clapham and another London areas. He began to get drawn to the East End of London and you’ve got to remember that the area during that time in history had more deviants, reprobates and low lives then the cast of Big Brother.
In 1866 Wiliam Booth found himself preaching outside of the Blind Beggar Pub on Whitechapel high-street.He was preaching to rabble of people when two missionaries approached him, inviting him to take part in in an event they were holding further up the road at a place called Mile End Way. They were holding an outdoor event for the poorest of the poor in the area. At this point William Booth became impassioned with the plight of the downtrodden.
From that point on Booth got more and more involved in outdoor events around the area of East End preaching to crowds of people that will turn up to hear what he had to say. Now this was not a church crowd. These were rough and ready people. Booth would get filth hurled at him, rocks, fireworks, the tent pegs would get pulled out and dismantled time and time again. Hymns would have to get struck up, just to drown out the verbal abuse. But he didn’t care he just kept going and going and going.
Over time William Booth began to develop the idea of running social projects alongside his preaching. Soup kitchens, helping mothers and children – It was this involvement that slowly got the people on his side as he became revered in the area.
However the Church of England couldn’t stand him, the authorities couldn’t abide him an even got labelled by politician and evangelist of the day Lord Shaftesbury, as the antichrist.
William Booth’s fame began to spread and he became known throughout England for the work he was doing in that area. It was around 1878 when he decided to model what he was doing on the army, introducing rankings wearing uniforms, and changing the name of his organisation to the ‘Salvation Army’.
By the time he died in 1883 William Booth preached over 60,000 sermons and his work had spread to 58 countries. Today the Salvation Army is in 117 countries worldwide and its work has affected and helped thousands and thousands of some of the worlds most forgotten people.