Salvation Army church takes holistic approach

Sun News correspondentNovember 28, 2012 

  • The Salvation Army Warner Robins Corps

    Address: 96 Thomas Blvd., Warner Robins
    Phone: 922-7585
    Leadership: Capts. Gene and Pam Perry, pastors
    Worship: Sunday school 10 a.m., worship 11 a.m., Wednesday adult Bible study 6 p.m., men’s and women’s ministry groups 7 p.m., Friday youth meetings 5:30 p.m.
    Website: Facebook.com search WAR Corps Salvation Army Warner Robins

WARNER ROBINS -- The Salvation Army is known for global social work, shelters, thrift shops, the occasional brass band and Christmas bells greeting shoppers during their annual Red Kettle Drive.

But the Salvation Army is also a church.

Locally, a Salvation Army church meets just off North Davis Drive at 96 Thomas Blvd.

“The Salvation Army is a Christian denomination with churches in 124 countries,” said Capt. Pam Perry, who pastors the small Warner Robins congregation with her husband, Salvation Army Capt. Gene Perry.

Perry said in the Salvation Army pastors are called officers, laity are soldiers and others who attend the church but aren’t as directly active in social ministries are called adherents.

“From the old days, the Salvation Army has had a motto of Soup, Soap and Salvation,” Perry said. “Our social services comprise the soup and soap aspect and our churches the salvation side, though all work together to form a holistic ministry.”

Perry said the Salvation Army was founded by William Booth, a Wesleyan Methodist minister who was moved by the poverty he saw in London’s East End in the late 1860s. She said though spiritual salvation remained paramount, Booth became convinced human needs had to be meet to express Christ’s love and that God’s transforming power should be made available to everyone without discrimination.

“The Salvation Army was originally called the Christian Mission and evolved into a place where both the workers and those they were reaching could worship,” Perry said. “The Salvation Army was quite scandalous at the time with its preaching on the streets and brass bands playing Christian music. There was no middle class in England then -- only the very rich and very poor -- and the rich didn’t want the poor in their churches.”

Perry said there’s a delicate balance in the Salvation Army between the work of the church and social program functions. For instance, though the couple administers social programs and workers in them, Perry said funds and financial records for the church and for social programs are completely separate. She said though most members of the church are eager volunteers in the humanitarian work of the Salvation Army, such work isn’t mandatory.

“I was a medical lab technologist for 23 years but was attracted to the Salvation Army due to its social service aspect,” Perry said. “I love the book of James. It’s a guide to practical Christianity, and it says what good is it if you claim to have faith but see your brother in need but don’t reach out to help them. I thought that’s what church should be about. My philosophy lined up very well with our founders. The Salvation Army was doing what’s become known as incarnational ministry before it was cool.”

Perry said she became a soldier then was hired as a program director by the Salvation Army. She later moved to Atlanta to go to seminary where she met Gene. She said he had been an executive chef and come to the Salvation Army through one of its alcohol treatment programs. He too began to work with the Salvation Army and then felt God was calling him to become a full-time pastor.

She said the two have been married for 10 years and served appointments in LaGrange and Waycross before coming two Warner Robins three years ago.

“Like all churches, there are those who are more and those who are less involved, but I have to say we are very blessed here to have a congregation with soldiers who are very involved in all aspects of our work,” Perry said.

She said many of the Salvation Army’s social ministries have recently moved their base from the group’s Green Street thrift store to its Thomas Boulevard campus. She said many come in connection with social services and are surprised when they realize the Salvation Army is a local church as well.

The dual role makes for full days for the Perrys.

“I guess we’re unique in a sense since we’re ordained pastors who administer a wide range of social programs, raise funds for them, write grant applications and oversee employees in non-profit agencies as well as doing weddings and funerals and all the other pastoral duties. Gene and I take turns preaching on Sundays. As a church we have our own community care ministries such as visiting nursing homes, hospitals and have quality ministries for adults and youth including a vacation Bible school for children in the area. We’re pastors first and foremost and have to keep that calling in focus while doing all the other things.”

The Salvation Army’s latest project in Warner Robins is Café 3:16 at 158 Manor Court.

Perry said Café 3:16 is designed as a community outreach providing a welcoming, structured and safe environment for teenagers and adults. During the day it serves as a resource center for adults and homeless clients. In the evenings, she said it will be an Internet café/coffee house themed place for teens and young adults featuring relevant, age-appropriate social interaction, learning opportunities and creative expression such as at an open mic night.

She said the evening teen program is primarily in need of adult volunteers before it can become fully operational.

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle fundraising drive is now under way through the holidays to raises funds for year-long social service programs.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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