The 21st General for the 21st Century. On May 24, Commissioner Brian Peddle was elected the 21st General of The Salvation Army during the 2018 High Council.

The Salvation Army 21st General for the 21st Century

On May 24, Commissioner Brian Peddle was elected the 21st General of The Salvation Army during the 2018 High Council. Following the conclusion of the High Council, the General-elect was interviewed by Lt-Colonel Brian Venables, communications secretary at International Headquarters, reflecting on his new role and responsibilities.

We have a very good outline of your history with The Salvation Army, but we want to know a little bit about you. What excites you? What gets you up in the morning? What makes your day?

What gets me up in the morning? Sleep and rest are a necessity but engaging a new day comes easy. I wake with three thoughts … First, I hope the family is OK, then I hope the Army is OK and finally I hope the world is OK – and all before you make the first coffee – through a check on social media. As an international leader I am keenly aware that while I am finishing my day, half the world is just beginning. The idea and thought that The Salvation Army is a 24/7 reality is quite intriguing. As never before, I am aware that the sun never sets on The Salvation Army flag.

Commissioner Brian Peddle delivers a message at the Mobilize—Newfoundland and Labrador congress in July 2017

What excites me is the ongoing reality that people are engaged in mission, and the vibrant activity of the Army continues … the gospel is being preached, suffering humanity is being served, strategies are being planned, schools opening for children, a mobile clinic rolls into a needy community, or a meal is served. What gets me up in the morning is knowing that the Army has not been sleeping – it’s a living organism and I engage with it as soon as I wake. I find that quite inspiring.

Do you hear lots of good stories?

My inspiration comes from the good stories that arrive reminding me that the world is small and very interactive. I am privileged and daily I am aware of an Army that is using its spiritual footprint in the world to the fullest extent. I never cease to be amazed at what God is doing. There are also many days when I am concerned about, and praying for, some part of the Army world where there is conflict, or there is a natural disaster, or some of our people are at risk. We are serving in 128 countries and almost without exception, a news headline draws attention to the fact our people are there as well, sometimes serving in the midst of their own tragedy. That’s the volatility of the world that we live in. I think there is lots of room, not only to celebrate God’s faithfulness but also to pray through some of the challenges faced by people and the circumstances that surround them.

What relationships do you value the most?

I thank God every day for my growing relationship with him. I am simply aware of his presence and a journey that remains an adventure with the Almighty. I am presently understanding what it means to live in this world and still do so with an active consciousness of God’s presence. Family comes next. My wife, Rosalie, has been a central focus for 40 years and for all of that time we have shared a ministry partnership that’s been incredibly rich. Of course, we are both preoccupied with the broader family and the interaction with two daughters, sons-in-laws and five grandchildren. Our day usually ends with FaceTime as they get home from school or are heading out to evening events. The best time of the day is when the screen comes alive and I hear the words: “Poppy, I have something to show you.” We stay connected even though we are not together often. I might admit and put out there as a caution to all that sometimes life moves so fast that personal needs are challenging. We are very conscious about making time for others.

That’s quite a commitment.

Well, they’re all important!

How did you come to The Salvation Army?

That was an interesting time in the life of my family. I credit my Mom and Dad, who were not Salvationists, but were a bit uncomfortable with things that were happening in their local church. In obedience to God they started to go to the Army and sometimes I would go along. Early in that experience they found a really good place in the Army where they were welcomed and embraced. Before I knew it, WE were attending!

I was immediately taken by the music, by vibrant preaching … I would even now remember the animated and enthusiastic preaching and strangely I remember testimonies. I was used to a very quiet, formal liturgical experience.

I admit I was attracted, pulled in and warmly welcomed and embraced by corps officers and people who displayed God’s love and genuine interest in us. A month ago I had the privilege of going back to that corps, Trinity Bay South, in Dildo, N.L., to lead the 125th anniversary celebrations. All I can say is that God is faithful.

So, there were other opportunities to be engaged besides family worship. Were you involved in the music sections or corps cadets?

No, I’ve missed most of that by not showing up until I was 14-15 years of age. I had skipped some of these formative things that many of our Salvationists get to enjoy as kids growing up in the Army. Strangely that was never an issue. I soon became a soldier and without a lot of time in between was sensing a call to officership and not to be dismissive. The rest is history as I now get to lead this incredible Army that gave me space and a spiritual home as an uncertain teenager.

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Commissioner Brian Peddle Elected General of The Salvation Army

Commissioner Brian Peddle Elected General of The Salvation Army

The 19th High Council has elected Commissioner Brian Peddle to be the General of The Salvation Army.

On the day voting would begin to elect the 21st General of The Salvation Army it was symbolic that the morning began with the worldwide prayer meeting. Led by the Chaplain (Commissioner Mark Tillsley, International Headquarters) the five zones into which the international Army is divided administratively became a focus for prayer, naming specific requests where appropriate. Each time the focus changed the members of the zone being lifted up to God were encircled by their fellow council members. These moments of prayer concluded with the chorus Bless them Now.

At the beginning of the day’s business the President (Commissioner Birgitte Brekke-Clifton, International Headquarters) took a few moments to acknowledge and thank the support staff: translators, IT support, secretariat staff and recorders – a sentiment endorsed by the council with appreciative applause.

As with the answers to the questionnaires on the previous day, the speeches from the four candidates were delivered without interruption and there followed no expression of approval or dissent. The drawing of lots again determined the order in which the candidates gave their speeches, which were received in silence. The council then adjourned.

The Chaplain led the council in singing song 975 from The Song Book of The Salvation ArmySalvation! O the Joyful Sound! before Commissioner Devon Haughton (Territorial Commander, Caribbean Territory) read from Acts 7:51-60. Drawing on these verses and directing his thoughts to the candidates, but suggesting they were for all present in the chamber, the Chaplain spoke of the need for holy boldness. In this story of Stephen he noted also the heavenly assurance he received and finally that, despite everything, Stephen continued to have a heartache for humanity. The council joined in the song To be Like Jesus, with its emphasis on “His Spirit helping me …” before prayer was offered by Commissioner Yvonne Westrupp (Territorial President of Women’s Ministries, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory.)

Then followed the election process, undertaken in silence as a solemn and sacred duty, resulting in the election of Commissioner Brian Peddle as the 21st General of The Salvation Army.

After the General-Elect was announced, Commissioner Peddle addressed those in attendance at the High Council and those watching worldwide via livestream: “It is absolutely a pleasure to stand before you today and acknowledge the confidence the High Council has placed in myself and Commissioner Rosalie. We are overwhelmed to say the least, but deeply honoured and feeling somewhat unworthy of the momentous task ahead of us.

“We stand so eager for God to move in a new way among us … We pray that The Salvation Army internationally will now move from strength to strength and that God almighty will bless us in an incredible way as we move forward into the future.”

Salvation Army Honours General and Commissioner Cox at Farewell Meeting

Salvation Army Honours General and Commissioner Cox at Farewell Meeting

“Personal” is not the first word that springs to mind when describing a big event in central London, but the Welcome to the High Council and Farewell to General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women’s Ministries) managed to be spectacular and yet highly personal. The General’s message that every person can change the world if they give themselves over to God was backed up by stories from the international leaders’ lives that demonstrated how, through service and sacrifice, they have made a personal impact around the world that will last long after they retire in August.

The event, in Central Hall, Westminster, began in a lively fashion, with a fanfare from the Fanfare Trumpeters of the Household Division of the British Army, resplendent in red tunics and bearskin hats. The congregation rose to welcome the General and Commissioner Cox, who were followed into the hall by the 108 members of the 2018 High Council.

The Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Brian Peddle, welcomed the congregation to the “best ticket in town” – a nod to the royal wedding which had just taken place about 25 miles to the west.

The General turned to face the members of the High Council, who were seated behind the stage, to charge them to consider carefully the “sacred purpose” of electing the next General. He told them it was “time to cast aside any personal opinions,” adding: “God does not always work in the way we expect.”

Music played an important role in the meeting, from lively pre-meeting contributions by the International Staff Band (ISB), International Staff Songsters (ISS) and Boscombe Timbrels to pieces that brought about an atmosphere of prayer and contemplation.

This mix of styles was demonstrated when the hushed atmosphere after The Prayer was sung by Gemma Hinchliffe, accompanied by the ISS and trumpeter Simon Cox (nephew of the General and Commissioner Cox), was followed immediately by the lively singing, dancing and drumming of African Praise, a British group made up of Salvationists from Zimbabwe and other African countries. The African influence – appropriate for the farewell to The Salvation Army’s first Africa-born General – was felt throughout the afternoon, including some extra-loud cheers when African leaders marched onto the stage!

“If I Were the General …” gave opportunity to three young people to offer their thoughts on what a General should be and do. Daniel Rose and Joel Lalhmingliana – featuring in a video presentation – came up with innovations such as giving out chocolate bars to encourage people to attend worship, allowing trombones to play at double forte and keeping sermons to four minutes long! Addressing the congregation in the hall, Emma Góchez considered some ideas for making Army uniforms more practical and fashionable but also spoke about the importance of using teenagers already in The Salvation Army to help other teens who were struggling. “We need to let more light into this dark world,” she said.

An African-style arrangement of They Shall Come from the East, They Shall Come from the West began with playing singing by some of the ISB and then grew to take in the whole congregation, with drumming and dancing from African Praise.

This was followed by a prayer and Bible reading given by the writer of the original music to the song, Retired General John Larsson, who prayed that High Council members would receive “a generous supply of wisdom that comes from above.”

Consecrated Service was a new piece by Bandmaster Richard Phillips, written as a musical tribute to the General and Commissioner Cox. Featuring the ISB, ISS, Gemma Hinchliffe, Simon Cox, African Praise and Boscombe Timbrels, the work took the listener on a journey through the term of office of the General, from the early sacred moments following election through to their taking the message of being a consecrated, mobilized people around the world, all using well-known Salvation Army songs.

Tributes to the retiring leaders were paid by two members of the High Council. Commissioner Margaret Siamoya (Territorial Commander, Zambia) thanked the Coxes for showing Spiritual leadership. She complimented the “dancing General” (“when you visited Africa!”) on his championing of the Accountability Movement, his leadership at the International Congress in 2015 and the introduction of The Whole World Mobilising initiative which she said has had a great impact in her territory.

The commissioner paid tribute to “Mama” Silvia’s impact on souls and particularly her advocacy for women’s development.

Commissioner Massimo Paone (Territorial Commander, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary) spoke about how the General and Commissioner Cox had embraced their roles with “commitment, passion and energy.” He made a particular point to highlight the example that the leaders had made in working closely as a team, saying that this type of joint ministry could be seen as The Salvation Army’s “secret treasure.”

It wasn’t all good news, however. Thanking the international leaders for choosing to retire in Switzerland, he warned them: “From August 3, I will be your territorial commander” and said that he expected them to be coach and mentor to him and his wife … “and I won’t take no for an answer!”

A video put together by the Coxes’ family showed how the international leaders has kept in touch over the past five years while visiting every Salvation Army territory and command. Their children and grandchildren received a postcard from every country they visited, along with a selection of gifts. Some of the grandchildren made their way onto the stage to return the favour, with Sarah Makanjera – one of the General and Commissioner Cox’s three daughters – saying that the next appointment was “as full-time grandparents.”

In response, Commissioner Cox spoke about the “immense” privilege that has been hers and that she was “thankful for the adventures.” She told the congregation that she could never imagined how a shy person who was scared of flying could have done what she has over the past five years, travelling all over the world to speak to crowds that sometimes contained several thousand people. Through everything, she added, she has “learned to trust God.”

She said that she had been aware of the power of prayer, which she knew had been supporting her, and paid tribute to the support she had also received from her husband, who she described as “such a wonderful man” – to the delight of the congregation!

Stirring songs from the ISS, More than Wonderful and All Rise (including soloist Kerry Sampson), led into the congregation singing of Holy, Holy, Holy before a video presentation reminded the congregation of the General’s “I Dream” statements that had underpinned his whole term of office, focusing on The Salvation Army he wanted to see – an accountable, mobilized Army that gave young people a voice.

The General took up the last “dream” statement, then told the congregation – and thousands of people watching the live stream online – that he had been delighted to see some aspects of his dream become reality.

He acknowledged the support he has received as General, from the prayers of Salvationists worldwide to the way that he and Commissioner Cox have been “released” by their family.

Far from being satisfied, however, he warned: “The Salvation Army around the world has the potential to be so much more!” And while he acknowledged that there are successes, he pointed out that when things are going well, it can become easy to stop relying on God. “Woe to us,” he challenged, “if we ever forget the Lord in our Army.”

He told his listeners not to allow compromise to take hold, and to avoid being taken in by the spirit of the world. Asking: “Do we rely on ourselves or do we rely on God’s strength?,” the General pointed out that “the light of our lives can sometimes be diminished by compromise,” and yet “the world in which we live is desperate to see light and hope.”

Referring to Joy Webb’s song The Candle of the Lord, which talks about taking the light of God to the darkest places of society, the General called on everyone listening to join him in saying: “Lord, light me so I can make a difference in the world.”

There followed sacred moments as the ISS sang the song referred to by the General. People moved from the congregation to kneel at the mercy seat in front of the stage. Some members of the High Council moved to speak to the seekers while others quietly stood from their seats, in an attitude of prayer and solidarity.

The General challenged the congregation to “stand and make this song your prayer,” which brought a unanimous response from everyone present. Following the meeting online, many people added comments such as “Amen,” “Praise God” and “Lord, light me.” (At time of writing, the stream had been watched live or on catch-up more than 40,000 times.)

The meeting finished in spectacular, joyful style with O Boundless Salvation!, the song known as the Founder’s Song and, as explained by the Chief of the Staff, “A bit of an anthem for us!”

As the congregation gave a full-throated rendition of the seven verses, the music groups that had taken part joined in one by one, including the fanfare trumpeters who stood on the balcony, and officers from International Headquarters who waved flags, until the final verse, “And now, Hallelujah, the rest of my days shall gladly be spent in promoting thy praise,” reached a glorious conclusion, followed by a long, spontaneous round of applause.

The congregation may have come to pay tribute The Salvation Army’s international leaders and welcome the group that will choose the next General, but they left having praised God and committed themselves – on a very personal level – to being a light for God in the darkest places of the world.

See more photos from the event on the IHQ Flickr site.

I heard the gospel because a Salvation Army corps sergeant-major kept his promise.

Solidier On

I heard the gospel because a Salvation Army corps sergeant-major kept his promise. I started drinking on weekends when I was 12. A few years later, it was several times a week. Then it became daily. By the time I was 30, I was smoking three packs of cigarettes and drinking a bottle of vodka every day.

I had always promised my kids I would stay sober on Christmas Day. But in 1983, just before my 38th birthday, I didn’t. I got to thinking if I couldn’t stay sober one day a year, maybe I had a problem.

When a friend suggested I go to church with him, I said no. I’d never been in a church, other than for weddings and funerals. But I said I would maybe go to The Salvation Army. He asked the corps sergeant-major at Lloydminster Corps, Alta., Elmo King, to call me. I told Elmo if he was standing on the street when I drove by on Sunday, I’d come in.

He was there. That morning, I heard the gospel for the first time in my life.

After the meeting, Elmo invited me out for lunch. Why not?—a free meal, I thought. He told me all about Christ and asked if I wanted to accept him into my heart. I said no.

But I kept thinking about what he’d said. Later that afternoon, a feeling came over me. I went into my bedroom and prayed. Jesus, if you are who Elmo says you are, and if you can do what he says, then come into my heart and take over my life, because I can’t do it anymore.

At 3 p.m. on January 15, 1984, I became a Christian. That night, I went to the evening meeting and publicly accepted Christ during the altar call.

“Jesus,” I prayed, “come into my heart and take over my life, because I can’t do it anymore.”

I never had another drink, and quit smoking the next week. Three months later, I became a senior soldier.

When I retired after 30 years as a truck driver, I went into full-time service for the Army, working as an envoy in Nelson, B.C., until my health declined. I’ve had eight heart attacks.

In 2004, after my fifth heart attack, doctors gave me a five per cent chance of surviving open-heart surgery. But we prayed and I came through.

As a volunteer with emergency and disaster services, I was called to go to Calgary to help after the floods, but found out I couldn’t work in a crisis response unit while on oxygen. If God wants me to go, he can do something about it, I thought. I’d been on oxygen for six years, but on the way to Calgary, I took it off, and haven’t needed it since then. I believe God healed me so I could do his will.

I’ve been a volunteer with our community care ministries here in Swift Current, Sask., for the past 14 years, and I try to support our officers in any way I can.

My relationship with Christ has grown over time. When someone asks me about my faith, I tell them my story, and to give God a try—they won’t be sorry.

“We are a volunteer army,” Bramwell, Booth’s son, responded, “Volunteer? I’m no volunteer, I’m a regular!” William Booth then

The Virtues of Volunteerism – We are a Volunteer Army

At the height of Victorian England’s volunteer movement in 1878, William Booth dictated a letter to George Scott Railton, his secretary. When Booth said, “We are a volunteer army,” Bramwell, Booth’s son, responded, “Volunteer? I’m no volunteer, I’m a regular!” William Booth then instructed Railton to delete the word volunteer and substitute it with the word salvation. Thus, “The Salvation Army” name was born.

Today, the Army’s “regulars” are called “officers” (pastors). They wear iconic blue uniforms with star–studded epaulettes on their shoulders.

ARMY BEHIND THE ARMY

However, behind every officer are faithful, hardworking volunteers. Often referred to as “The Army Behind the Army,” volunteers play a crucial role in the Army’s ability to provide quality social services for entire communities.

Volunteers are valuable assets in the Army’s effort to meet the world’s changing needs. Through their skills and experience, they make significant contributions by positively influencing lives. Such volunteers uplift families and communities.

One of the Army’s most memorable volunteer movements occurred in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They came from far and wide and lined up by the hundreds, seeking an opportunity to put their time, energy, and resources toward rebuilding the American morale and spirit.

The following examples illustrate how, for many of these volunteers, their patriotism proved life–changing.

CHANGED LIVES

During a dedication ceremony of the National September 11 Memorial Museum in Lower Manhattan, images flashed on a massive screen in a great subterranean hall showing men and women at work at Ground Zero’s “Taj Mahal” (the Salvation Army tent so named by the workers).

Also pictured were Army volunteers, writing prayers on battered beams of steel, counseling survivors, offering water, sandwiches, coffee, and words of comfort. Bright red Salvation Army shields affixed to white windbreaker jackets and construction worker hardhats clearly distinguished them.

Just a few days prior to the actual dedication ceremony, hundreds of Salvation Army volunteers previewed the museum in response to a letter of invitation extended to them by the Museum Foundation via the Greater New York Division.

Kelly–Jane Cotter from central New Jersey, reflected on her visit to the museum. “One of the artifacts I most appreciated seeing was the Ground Zero Cross,” she wrote in myCentraljersey.com, “which I vividly remembered from my time as a volunteer with The Salvation Army. Yet while visiting the museum, I walked right past the 17–foot crossbeam. My mind was reeling, my eyes were filled with tears, and I simply couldn’t see it until I noticed some firefighters aiming their cameras upward.”

Tanya Hoggard, a Cincinnati–based flight attendant, had rearranged her schedule to volunteer with The Salvation Army. She came to realize that children from around the country wanted their messages of thanks and hope to reach the firefighters and rescue workers at Ground Zero.

Through friendships forged with firefighters who visited the Taj Mahal for coffee, conversation, and snacks, Hoggard learned that firehouses throughout New York City were receiving mail bags containing warm wishes from children—sometimes attached to stuffed animals, candy, murals, flags, and quilts. These expressions of love and gratitude proved overwhelming.

Hoggard thought, Why don’t I collect and safeguard these touching expressions? With permission, she archived the materials. Her resulting “Dear Hero Collection” is now on display at the museum.

For Sam Potter, Oklahoma’s disaster relief director, the preview day was an emotional one. He had spent a total of 39 days in Lower Manhattan, providing relief in the wake of the attacks. At that time, disaster relief chaplaincy was in its infancy and was yet to be organized nationally. However, the Oklahoma team carried with them the experiences of ministering to people devastated by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

“I think the biggest thing about the museum is that it truly tells the whole story of what happened that 9/11,” Porter wrote for “theCatholicspirit.com,” an online newspaper.

Jennifer Adams–Webb volunteered in the aftermath of 9/11 for The Salvation Army. She had worked in World Trade Tower One for several years prior to the attack. Today, she is chief executive officer of the September 11th Families’ Association and co–founder of the 9/11 Tribute Center.

Jim Daly, another volunteer, had watched on TV and in horror as the World Trade Center’s twin towers fell.

This parishioner of St. John in Little Canada continues to reflect on time spent as a volunteer at Ground Zero in January 2002. His thoughts are expressed in articles written about him in publications and periodicals.

After answering the Army’s call for volunteers, Daly found himself at Ground Zero staring into “the pit,” a hole the size of a football field, where construction workers, police officers, and firefighters continued to unearth human remains four months after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

When asked by a reporter how the experience affected him, Daly paused for a moment, then said, “I have an appreciation for every day when I watch the sun come up. I think [the experience] probably just strengthened that.”

installation of the new Territorial Leaders of the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland

Chief of the Staff Installs Territorial Leaders for United Kingdom, Ireland

Salvationists and friends of all ages gathered at William Booth Memorial Halls Corps in Nottingham to witness the installation of Territorial Commissioners Lyndon and Bronwyn Buckingham as leaders of the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland (UKI). The ceremony, conducted by the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Brian Peddle) and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle (World Secretary for Women’s Ministries) took place less than a mile from the birthplace of Salvation Army Founder William Booth in Notintone Place.

Colonel David Hinton (Chief Secretary, UKI) opened the ceremony and made the welcome and introductions, with the territorial headquarters flag carried onto the platform. The congregational song Who is on the Lord’s Side? was followed by a prayer song, O Love, from the International Staff Songsters.

Laura-Jane Kingscott (Divisional Youth Specialist, West Midlands Division) welcomed the new territorial leaders on behalf of young people and youth leaders. She said that the following were important to young people: “Going deeper in their knowledge and understanding of Jesus, authenticity, that they are valued for who they are, and given opportunities to grow in their faith and leadership.”

Greeting the new leaders on behalf of the territory’s officers, Major Anita Purkiss (Leicester West) said she realized that the Buckinghams – originally from New Zealand – were now a very long way from home and that she appreciated the sacrifice of leaving their family behind. But, she said, “We will promise to pray that you would know the Lord holding you close in those moments when the inevitable homesickness strikes.”

Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham (Territorial Leader for Leader Development) responded to the welcomes, expressing how the Bible verses from Philippians 1 given by Laura-Jane Kingscott were especially significant. The commissioner showed a picture of her family and described them as “an extension of us.” She acknowledged that “God who calls, always equips.”

The Chief of the Staff described the UKI Territory as a “God-glorifying expression, daily,” adding: “The days ahead are going to be incredible.” He commended Commissioners Lyndon and Bronwyn to be “leaders to these, your people, shepherds of God’s flock, leading in mission and also appointed to be stewards of all that is temporal underpinning mission … knowing that you are daily accountable to God.”

In the sacred moments that followed, the Chief of the Staff and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle installed the commissioners as leaders of the territory before praying for them. The congregation greeted the new leaders with a round of applause.

Territorial Commander Commissioner Lyndon Buckingham addressed the congregation with passion and conviction, taking as his theme “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.” He lifted up the fantastic things happening in the territory, together with the amazing people doing the work. He acknowledged the challenges, but wanted to emphasize the mission that was being achieved.

“It’s the courage that we find in [Christ’s] name that counts,” he said. “It’s the hope that we find in his name that matters, it’s the confidence that we place in him that makes a difference. His name is Jesus and we love him. We serve him and we honour him and we march in his name.”

Salvation Army Launches Group Singing Program For People Living With Dementia

The Salvation Army has launched a dynamic program for people with dementia which uses singing to help them connect with others and bring back memories.

The scheme, called Singing By Heart, uses a mix of popular hymns, such as ‘Joy in my Heart’, and popular songs like ‘Moon River’, which span the decades. Each song has been carefully selected to ensure they’re fondly recognised by the people in the groups.

It is widely acknowledged that music can trigger past memories and feelings in those living with dementia. Each song begins with a passage of scripture and finishes with a prayer. The sessions are designed to encourage communication, recollection of memories, and happy thoughts for those taking part. It is also hoped carers will find the sessions beneficial through enabling time for them to relax, make friends, and share experiences.

Bill, 86, has been bringing his wife Anita to the Singing by Heart session at Sedgley since October after being recommended by a friend. Anita, 81, has been living with anxiety and memory loss for the past 2 years, unable to remember events within a very short amount of time. Bill says: “Singing by Heart is the one day in the month when I can see Anita full of life and engaged in an activity. It’s amazing to see her being sociable with others, and it’s like she’s back to her previous self. I’ve found it difficult to get any positive responses from Anita in the past but the enthusiasm and humour of the leaders at Singing by Heart is the key to its success. We were even up doing the hokey cokey at the last meeting. Every month our daughter comes with us to the session and it’s seeing Anita smile again that keeps us coming back to spend this special time together as a family.”

Ivy, 85, has attended the Sedgley Singing by Heart group since last September. She takes two buses from her house to attend and says she “really looks forward to it”. Ivy said: “I’m a firm believer that everybody loves music and the happiness it can bring.

“My mother suffered for many years with dementia and I really think she would have enjoyed a group like this. Seeing everyone connect with the music in the room is wonderful. Caring for someone with dementia can be so hard and sometimes a smile is all you want. That is what Singing by Heart can offer.”

The idea to bring Singing by Heart to The Salvation Army was introduced by Lee Highton-Nicholls, who is the regional specialist for the church and charity’s older peoples ministries based in Birmingham. Lee has 12 years’ experience working in dementia care, and wanted to use The Salvation Army’s musical legacy to bring those living with dementia and their carers together in an enjoyable and supportive way.

Lee said: “After working with people living with dementia for many years I was interested to see how we could create an experience for people to engage in prayer, bible reading, and worship. Singing always seems to enable the individuals involved to connect with others around them in a unique way. We are very excited to see Singing by Heart being rolled out to groups across The Salvation Army to connect with people living with dementia and their carers. We believe it offers people the opportunity to enjoy singing together in a relaxed and fun way; whilst offering a way of connecting spiritually through prayer and scripture readings.”

The singing groups have been piloted in partnership with our music ministries team in a number of The Salvation Army’s churches with the hope of rolling the programme out to more areas around the UK and Republic of Ireland in the near future.

For each church to run a singing group they must first take a “Dementia Friends” course, an Alzheimer’s Society initiative. A song lyric book and training video has been produced by The Salvation Army to support the programme.

The Salvation Army is dedicated to supporting older people and runs 13 residential care homes around the UK, as well as befriending services, day centres and a range of activities to combat isolation.

Andrew Wileman, Assistant Director of Older Peoples Services at The Salvation Army, said: “At The Salvation Army we believe everyone has equal value and is loved by God. Often people with dementia can be overlooked, and our local churches are at the forefront of welcoming older people to weekly lunches, clubs, and activities. These activities are not only important in communities to help combat loneliness and isolation, but we also see older people with dementia and their carers coming to us in need of support.

“We believe Singing by Heart can be used by Salvation Army churches and centres, as well as other church denominations, to connect with people who live with dementia, while also providing them and their carers a social situation and support network.”